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I Now Pronounce You...Business Partners

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                   SoHo NEWS & TIPS
Helping You Make the Most of Your Small Office/Home Office

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Today's article focuses on the challenges and rewards of 
having your spouse as your business partner. If you work 
with your spouse or another family member, this is a great 
article for you to read.

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I Now Pronounce You...Business Partners 
By Jeff D. Opdyke

After 14 years of marriage and more than two 
decades together, I've discovered a side to my 
wife, Amy, I've never seen: no-nonsense business 

Just recently we bought an investment property 
together -- a 1930s-era cottage in a regentrifying 
neighborhood near downtown. Our plan is to operate 
the house as a rental unit.

For years I've known my wife possesses some 
business acumen. After all, she has worked herself 
up from registered nurse to chief operating officer 
of a specialty surgery center. And we've certainly 
chatted about our respective jobs over the years. 
I just never saw that business acumen up close.

Now, however, I'm seeing firsthand what Amy the 
Business Woman is like. And frankly, it's a bit 
unsettling. She's more demanding than I've ever 
seen her. What she tolerates in our personal life 
is suddenly unacceptable in our business life.

And she isn't shy about saying so.

The result is that while we've been partners for 
half of our lives, this is unfamiliar ground for 
both of us. I thought that I knew everything there 
was to know about my wife, and that we'd interact 
in business just as we do in everyday situations. 
But instead, we're like newlyweds, uncertain of 
what to expect and learning to navigate money and 
relationship issues from a whole new perspective. 
When it comes to relationships, I've discovered, 
you don't really know your partner until you get 
down to business.

* * *

It's nothing personal; it's just business.

We've all heard that cliché. But what happens when 
the operation of a business is, by definition, 
personal? Maybe two spouses work together. Maybe 
it's siblings. Maybe kids and parents. Whatever the 
situation, every move, every word, every decision 
carries the burden of your relationship. Everything 
you know about the other person -- temperament, pet 
peeves, work ethic -- colors your perception of 
their actions.

Expectations also are different than they'd be 
with a regular business partner. Maybe a father 
expects his son will operate the family business 
as he does; maybe a sibling business partner 
assumes she has a certain flexibility in her 
schedule; maybe a spouse thinks that part of the 
fun of going into business together is that they 
can goof off together. These expectations all may 
be correct -- or horribly off base. But the point 
is this: A family business venture can be both 
blessing and curse -- a wonderful melding of the 
personal and professional...or a disaster waiting 
to happen.

My friend Grace has worked for her brother on and 
off over the years. She has even been fired by him. 
While there are certainly upsides to a relationship-
based work arrangement, Grace has come to see the 
downside of working with, or for, family members: 
The person you love is not always the person you 
find at the office.

Conversations Grace had with her brother before 
they teamed up no longer happened. She felt reluct-
ant to just walk into his office to chat. She was 
pushed into jobs that, in any other circumstance, 
she never would have pursued. In short, Grace lost 
her brother when she gained a boss.

Continued below....


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Today, Grace's philosophy on working with family 
is generally "don't do it."

"I love my brother as my brother, not as my boss," 
she says. "Think about it: We all harbor terrible 
thoughts at some time about our bosses. I didn't 
like having those thoughts about my big brother, 
whom I worshiped as a kid."

* * *

I don't want to create the wrong impression. Amy 
and I aren't disagreeing about how to run our 
partnership. We are on the same page when it comes 
to our goals, as well as how to reach those goals. 
No, the difference is more one of style and 
attitude. For me, this is largely about doing 
something with the woman I love. The fact that it's 
a business venture is secondary.

Amy sees it differently. I told her recently that 
"I'm beginning to see you as very Trump-like in 
this business." She giggled, then said, "It's our 
money at stake, and I take that very seriously. 
You just happen to be my partner."

Compounding the problem is that as life partners, 
we're used to our different personalities. We've 
come to accept them. As business partners, we 
aren't quite there yet. Amy is quintessential Type 
A -- so meticulously organized, she'll make a list 
of tasks, complete one not on that list, then add 
it to the list after she's done.

Me, I'm so not Type A. I scribble notes onto my 
palm -- and I'm lucky to remember they're there 
two minutes later. I'm good at completing tasks, 
I just do so on my own schedule. I meet deadlines, 
but I work best under the pressure of a pressing 
deadline, not when I have days and weeks to toy 
with a project. That drives Amy nuts.

Just the other day we drove to the house after the 
current owner moved out. I wanted to inspect what 
items we might need to address before we hunt for 
a renter. Amy wanted to go with pruning shears and 
tools and start work immediately on grooming the 
backyard and repairing a screen. She was annoyed 
that I rebuffed her efforts.

"I'm not trying to be domineering," she later told 
me when I interviewed her for this column. "It's 
just that I have a business to run, and I'm not 
laissez-faire about it. We're accountable to each 
other for our success, and I want to make sure it 
is a success. If that means I take the reins because 
that's not your style, then that's what I'm going 
to do. I'm not like that in our home life because 
there's a difference between home and business. But 
what we're doing is a business. So what you're see-
ing is me switching between those two roles."

She ended by telling me, "People at work know that 
what they tell me to get done will get done. So I 
have those same expectations of you; I expect you 
to be on task with our business."

She has a point.

Yet no matter what, we are who we are, and as a 
married couple we can't axe each other as a part-
ner in this business. If we're to succeed, then, 
we both realize we must map a middle ground that 
plays to our individual strengths. Amy's organ-
izational skills allow her to run the business 
very efficiently, and I cede that power to her. 
My work ethic and my ability to complete tasks 
fast under pressure means she knows she can rely 
on me to do what needs to be done, though it 
needn't necessarily be done weeks in advance just 
because the thought pops into her head.

In the end, it is just business. But it's also all 
too personal.                            

JEFF D. OPDYKE is a Staff Reporter of The Wall 
Street Journal.


Some credit-card processing companies have restrict-
ions that prevent them from authorizing certain 
types of businesses. If you fall into any of these 
categories, be aware that you might haave to do a 
little more shopping around to get a good deal: 
home-based businesses, mail-order firms, start-up 
businesses and business done primarily over the 

So what did you think about this issue? Drop me a line and let 
me know at mandi@gophercentral.com 

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Copyright 2006 PENN L.L.C.   All rights reserved. 

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