In a recently posted comment to my March 26 blog (‘A Friendly Face”’) about hiring friends, Mark Johnson raised an equally thorny issue: “How do you deal with an out-of-office spouse that is interested in you firing a star performer?” The issues involving spouses not active in the business usually are only slightly easier to deal with than those involving spouses who work in the business.
When it comes to out-of-business spouses, gender seems to play a larger role. In my experience, husbands tend to seek autonomy in their own business lives and, consequently, are less likely to want to get involved in their wives’ businesses. Wives, on the other hand, especially non-working wives, seem to have a greater interest in their husbands’ firms. I suspect this stems from the considerable overlap between a small, closely held business and one’s private life.
In either case, the simple answer is to gently, but firmly, tell your spouse that it’s your business and you need to run it your way. Of course, relationships are rarely that simple. Owning a small business involves decisions that affect one’s family life: time spent in the office; whether to grow larger; add partners; business risk; reinvesting in the business; financing to expand; buying your building, etc. In most marriages, you need and wants your spouse’s buy-in on these key decisions.
So you have to pick your battles, and a “butt-out” conversation about one employee often just isn’t worth it.