Are you and your spouse aligned on critical business objectives? Is your spouse aware of what your business objectives and career goals are? Have you discussed how your business objectives support the over-riding (and highly important) long-term goals you have as a couple? Is your spouse interested, or does your spouse feel that their input is valued?
On occasion I have the opportunity to meet with business owners and their spouses to discuss business matters. Usually these conversations come about in anticipation of change, such as a business exit or investing in growth or new ventures. Sometimes the spouse appears to be disinterested, but this is typically not really the case. Some spouses truly do not want to be bothered – the business is simply a means to the end. In other cases, the disinterest is masking a different and potentially more damaging issue – the couple are not engaged on any level of their lives and have grown apart. Lastly, and perhaps most commonly, the spouse is simply conditioned to not being involved. They often don’t feel that their input or involvement is valued or sought, and as a result they are wary of any attempts to becoming involved.
If your spouse has not had an opportunity to be involved in the business or have a voice in determining the objectives, you will need to display a little bit of patience and determination to change your culture in how you work together. Here are some practical tips for starting what may become the most important and rewarding business meetings you will have:
· Give context. Don’t assume that your spouse understands the nuances of your business. They don’t always understand the terminology or the products or services that your company offers. Better to start with bite-sized portions.
· Define the Big Picture together. What are your common life goals, and what are your most important objectives as a couple? I have found that in most cases where spouses don’t communicate about business objectives, they don’t communicate about their over-riding objectives as a couple either. I have had multiple meetings where the business owner tells me that they never intend to retire, only to have the spouse sit there in stunned surprise. The Big Picture is not about your business. It is about your life and is infinitely more important.
· “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”. The Stephen R Covey concept from his groundbreaking book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is a most important skillset in all communications. You will find that for the most part you are aligned in principle on the most important objectives. By seeking to first understand you will recognize commonalities more readily than differences.
· Respect the input. This must be sincere. People can generally tell if you are paying lip-service. Even worse, they may, based on experience, assume that their opinion doesn’t matter. It may take some time and patience to break down the barriers.
· Schedule regular updates – Your meetings with your spouse will hopefully become some of the most meaningful and rewarding events of your business life. This is something that should happen at regular intervals. You will discover that the meetings become better, and even critical, to achieving the ultimate dreams and objectives you have for your business.
Of course, many of you naturally do this well. Some of the best run companies I know have spouses that work together in the business. But, for those who are not in that situation, gaining input from your spouse will give invaluable insights. Take the time now, while you may be home and with your spouse more than usual, to start talking about your business.
CEO, My Value Advisor