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Spouses in the Business

by in Business Marketing
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Spouses in the Business

A couple of years ago, I was working with a couple on the East Coast in the remodeling business.  

The husband generated a fair amount of business with several sub-contractors, and the wife was in charge of the marketing.

Everything was fine for a year or so, but then the wife started to become distracted by myriad family situations that required her attention.

When we spoke, she complained that she really didn’t like working for or with her husband.  The job was uninspiring, and there were other things she’d much rather do.  She would agree to handle the assignments we discussed and then cancel several appointments, because she “hadn’t done her homework.”  In the meantime, the husband was working his head off, trying to satisfy his clients and compensate for what she was ignoring.

Finally, after several attempts at scheduling yet another meeting, she simply didn’t respond either to my phone calls or emails; and that was the end of that.

As a marketing consultant and speaker to small and growing businesses for more than 38 years, I’ve seen a fair amount of unhappy couples.  The husband is disappointed, because he depends upon his wife for the marketing or bookkeeping; the wife is resentful, because she wants to be free to do something else.  In many of these cases, the wife has been expected to work for no salary, because “the business benefits the entire family.”


Now, I don’t want to come across as slamming the husbands for having unrealistic expectations or being cheap; but I will admit that, in the few instances when the situation is reversed with the wife owning the business and the husband helping out, the husband always draws a salary.  There’s no question.

This entire husband-wife business situation can be tricky.  I’ve witnessed couples who simply don’t work well together, and I’ve witnessed couples who have true marriage and business partnerships.  The businesses of the latter group do very well, and the employees have no issues with either of the owners, according them both the respect they deserve.

So what causes the challenges, and what works?  

It seems to me that there has to be a real meeting of the minds.  The spouse must be on board with what the owner (if not a business partner) is expecting her or him to contribute to the business, in terms of time, job description and value.  It can’t just be what the owner is counting on the spouse to do.

It’s true that this arrangement often comes about, because the owner is trying to save the expense of an employee.  Yet the owner should have the sensitivity, not only to recognize work that isn’t being addressed or is sub-par, but an unhappy spouse.

For a business owner husband in particular, having one he can trust to take on several duties might seem efficient; but it’s downright ineffective, if the wife resents the hours spent and being taken for granted.

For those in this situation, it’s time to have a heart-to-heart.

A staffer might be far less costly in the long run.  After all, there is certain work that must be completed, and the marriage deserves to be respected above all else.



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Adrienne was a New Jersey public speaker and business expert for over THIRTY years. Now she’s a marketing and referral consultant. Denver and Northern Colorado have depended on her since her arrival here over 12 years ago.

Consulting and speaking to business owners and executives of growing businesses throughout the United States since 1977, Adrienne Zoble has guided companies toward marketing strategies that help them work smart, not hard.