Your Spouse Is CRITICAL To Successful Business Planning
While you are working on the succession and strategy planning for your business, including your spouse is critical to the planning process, even if they don’t work in the business. Most business owners understand the importance of this, but 10% or 20% object to this idea and don’t understand.
First of all, objectivity, if your spouse doesn’t work there every day, and they’re not embroiled in the day to day minutiae, they’re a little more objective about the business, and they can look at the 30,000 feet view.
The other thing is that they tend to be fairly protective of their spouses. They’ll basically advocate for their spouse, which comes in especially handy if there are multiple business owners. Whereas you might not advocate for yourself because you might perceive that that’s disrespectful to your business partner, your spouse will likely advocate for you and might say, “Well he works the hardest and he contributes the most, and he gets paid the same as everybody else, and then we’d never have thought that was fair,” etc, so that advocacy can come in handy.
The spouse usually has a better idea of how the business affects the family. If you’re talking to the business owner, they are thinking purely business stuff – moving stuff point A to point B, and achieving goals, and setting targets and all that kind of stuff. They’re not going to say much about how their work takes time away from their family and all that, but you would hear that from their spouse.
Spouses tend to do more truth-telling than other people in the business. Again, they’re outside the business looking in, and they tend to be a lot more honest. When you talk to the people actually working in the businesses, they gloss over lots of things, but when you talk to the spouses, you get the real dirt: “My mother-in-law doesn’t work there anymore but she used to be the office administrator and the finance person and she keeps an iron fist on that checkbook.” In other words, in that case, the business owner has been running the business for 20 years, but their mom actually still controls the finances of the business.
Spouses who don’t work in the business often have a ton of valuable insights, and I can’t imagine doing a family business intervention without interviewing spouses who are directly affected by the decisions that the insiders make. They are stakeholders, just like anybody else, they may not be stockholders but they’re stakeholders in the outcomes of the business. They want to make sure things are fair, the business is running successfully. I mean, they themselves and their children have a stake in the outcomes and success of the business.
In a small business, your family is part of the system. We have spouses, we have children, we have employees, we have customers. A small business is a system that works together in an interlocked way, and all parts of the system need to function well in order for people to be successful, to be happy, and to enjoy a reasonable remuneration from all the hard work and the risk that they put in.
So why talk to your spouse during business planning? They are a key part of the system of your business, and they too have a stake in the outcomes of the business succession and strategy planning. Hopefully, this answers the question for the 10% or 20% of you that didn’t understand that before. Make them a part of your business planning process.