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Azriela Jaffe

Opposites Attract — But Do They Make Good Business Partners?
A woman fears that working with her husband will drive them apart

I received the following e-mail (edited) from a woman who is having second thoughts about joining her husband in business:

"I stayed at home for eight years raising our three kids while my husband worked. About two years ago, I went back to work full time so my husband could spend more time with the kids, quit his awful sales job, and build up his home-remodeling business.

"I was going to quit my job at the beginning of the year and run the business. (I'd eventually like to have my own business.) Now, to our shock, we find that baby No. 4 is on the way, so I'll work at least until the birth for the medical insurance.

"My husband's business is booming. We've owned and remodeled four houses together, so I am somewhat knowledgeable about it. My only concern — and it's a big one — is about our relationship. We've been happily married 14 years, yet we see everything differently. He's a Republican, I'm a Democrat. He likes no plans, I like 10-year plans, and so on. We are happily married, but our business discussions highlight our differences. Are we nuts to consider partnering together?"

Entrepreneurial couples like you and your husband run companies successfully the world over. If you and your husband weren't married, he'd probably look for a partner who could compensate for his weaknesses. However, there are some caveats when spouses of different temperaments work together:

1) It's imperative that your husband respect your intelligence, skills, and opinion, and allow you to do certain things your way. He must treat you the way he would a nonfamily member with different skills.

2) You must allow him his differences as well. The business is booming? Don't try to change it too much. Add your knowledge, and give him the support he needs in the office so that he can spend more time doing what he does well.

3) Set up ground rules about the areas where each makes autonomous decisions, and where you must reach consensus from the beginning. Schedule regular meetings to discuss your differences of opinion, rather than arguing at will. Keep a nonjudgmental tone.

4) Pursue your own interests as time allows. If possible, work part time for your husband's business. If your ambitions are satisfied, you'll be less frustrated when your husband runs his business in ways you disagree with.

I'm optimistic for you — you're happily married; you and your husband have already switched roles, demonstrating a flexibility few couples achieve; and you're aware of the pitfalls of going into business with a spouse. All those things augur well for your joint venture.

Have a question on how to handle the pressures of running a business and the impact on your personal life, marriage, and family? Contact Azriela Jaffe at Please put "BW Online question" in the subject field. Your real name will be kept confidential if you request, but please give an E-mail address, phone number, and your hometown so she can contact you for more information. Because of heavy volume, Azriela cannot guarantee that she will answer every query.



Our Marriage Can't Be Saved — Can Our Partnership?



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Azriela Jaffe