Momentum Podcast: 129
Should I Work With My Spouse?
by Alex Charfen
Multiple times a week I get asked the question “should I work with my spouse?”
I believe that working with your spouse, given the right process and environment, is one of the biggest accelerators to entrepreneurial growth.
Working with your spouse is one of the greatest privileges an entrepreneur can have. We get to plan together, achieve together, and change the world together.
When done correctly, there is very little that is as amazing as working with your spouse and growing an empire together.
Full Audio Transcript
I'm Alex Charfen, and this is The Momentum Podcast, made for empire builders, game changers, trailblazers, shot takers, record breakers, world makers, and creators of all kinds. Those among us who can't turn it off and don't know why anyone would want to. We challenge complacency, destroy apathy and we are obsessed with creating momentum so we can roll over bureaucracy and make our greatest contribution. Sure we pay attention to their rules but only so that we can bend them, break them, then rewrite them around our will. We don't accept our destiny, we define it. We don't understand defeat because you only lose if you stop and we don't know how. While the rest of the world strives for average and clings desperately to the status quo, we are the minority, the few, who are willing to hallucinate there could be a better future and instead of just daydreaming of what could be, we endure the vulnerability and exposure it takes to make it real. We are the evolutionary hunters, clearly the most important people in the world because entrepreneurs are the only source of consistent, positive human evolution and we always will be.
Should I work with my spouse? I'm gonna read a question that I got through social media from one of our member listeners. "Hi Alex, I'm a huge fan of your podcast and all your content. I listen to three to four episodes a day while I'm at the gym and your content is at the top of my newsfeed. Taking in your knowledge is a very important part of my day. I always get new insights and huge light bulb moments as I take it in, from hydration, leadership, marriage advice, treating myself like a million dollar racehorse. My husband has even started to call me Seabiscuit as a new term of endearment. Ha. I was wondering if I could make a request for content that I'd love to hear from you. I'm an entrepreneur and I totally align with the evolutionary hunter term that you use, but my husband isn't and it causes issues for us. I'm curious to know your thoughts on marriage when one entrepreneur is an evolutionary hunter and the other one isn't. My business has taken off and in April of 2017, he left his nine to five to work with me in the business, but it hasn't really been working out as I hoped.
I understand where I need to have better communication and set expectations. I also need to decide what my expectations are so we can both understand what it is that he can do to provide value and contribute and I have to better lead him towards that instead of expecting he can read my mind and figure out how to help me and contribute to the business. Do I expect him to work as much and as hard as me? I work an above-average amount, so no, that's not realistic. Do I want him to take initiative and learn how to build a business? I understand where I need to be a better leader, be more patient and kind and understanding to get him there or are we not meant to work together like this? He's a wonderful man, he loves me so much and it shows, he would do anything for me. I trust him with all of my heart. He is a rare kind. We just have different levels of ambition and motivation when it comes to business. Your podcast, What If I Am Single, reminded me to be the partner I want to be so I will start there. I appreciate your consideration in covering this on your podcast. Thanks so much, from this individual, a future member of your mastermind one day. I would like that a ton."
I don't want to share a name, just in case. There's some sensitive information here and this happens to entrepreneurs all the time. Working with our spouse and then realizing that things aren't working out as well as we want and I'll tell you that in this question is the solution that you're looking for because when we want our spouse to get into momentum when they've joined the business, we have to help them do that and if you want your spouse to contribute and get excited and be as into this as you are, then the responsibility is on you but i know it's difficult to know what to do so let me help you. There are three requirements for a human being to be in momentum. You have to have a clear outcome, know where you're going and understand what it looks like to get there. You have to have accountability or contribution. Know what you're doing, what your responsibilities are, what your part is and what is the part of the people around you and then the last one is transparency. Some type of scoreboard to show you success along the way.
Now here's the challenge when a spouse joins a business. Oftentimes, none of those three are present. Because it's our spouse, we expect them to understand us, to just know what they should be doing. Because it's our spouse we want them to have an almost ESP-like quality to be able to read our minds and in this question, I'm reading the challenges. It says, "I know I need to help him understand what he needs to do. I know I need to be more clear. I know I need to help him in the business." So you should. Let me give you some suggestions and a process that I've used with hundreds of entrepreneurial couples that have decided to work together. Grab a whiteboard, draw a line down the middle, put your name on one side, his name on the other side, and start creating clarity as to who does what in the business. What is all the things you're going to do, what are all the things he is going to do because here's what I want you to understand about your spouse joining the business, they are your partner. They don't work for you, they don't work for the business. When a spouse joins a company, any company, that spouse is your partner and it doesn't matter what role they play in the business. You have to treat them as such.
So get out a whiteboard, draw a line down the middle and the two of you, logically and rationally together decide who does what and write it on the board. This is an exercise that my wife Cadey and I do over and over again. In fact ironically right now, there is on my board a line down the middle, on my whiteboard in my office with Alex on one side, Cadey on the other because we were just two days ago going through this process again for ourselves. We do it often so that we have clarity around who is responsible for what and which one of us is doing it.
Because until you have that clarity, here's something I want you to understand about your spouse that's been invited into the business. They are at a massive disadvantage compared to you. Here's what I mean by that. You can see the future. You know where you want the company to go. You understand what you want to have happen next. It's clear to you because it's in your head and you're moving towards it every day in momentum because you're creating the outcomes you want to see in the world. Here's the challenge for your spouse. Until they know where you're going and why, until they know what they're responsible for and until they know how you're measuring success, they can't work as hard as you. They can't get into momentum like you are. They can't get as excited as you are and they will always look like they're not working as hard as you. Because if you're working with your spouse and they don't have clarity around what they're doing and they don't have clearly defined responsibilities, you are in a transactional business relationship with your spouse. That means you're telling them what to do, checking that it got done, and telling them what to do again.
This doesn't just hurt relationships of any kind, it can destroy a marriage and it can cause a ton of stress and animosity in the relationship because no spouse wants to be told what to do. They want to be treated as a partner. They want to have their own ideas. They want to contribute. They want to get into momentum and help you. That's why your spouse has joined the business.
So here's the key. Get to that whiteboard and divide the responsibilities, then create job descriptions for each one of you. Here's what that job description will do for your spouse and we have a very specific way of doing this. There's four sections. You create the role, the responsibilities, the results, and the requirements for somebody filling that role. So this is simple. The role is a brief description of what the person's going to do. The responsibilities are what are all the things that you are going to be responsible for and then on your spouse's description what are they gonna be responsible for. The results, what are the actual results you're driving in the business and then the requirements, what's required of the person in the position just in case you have to replace it some day. You and your spouse are going to constantly hire people around you so that you can level up on what you're doing and having a clear description allows you to do that.
Now when your spouse has that clear description and they have clarity around what they should be doing, what are their responsibilities, what are the results they're driving, they can now go autonomously and work in momentum. They don't have to come to you and find out what they should be doing. They don't have to go through that transactional doing something, finding out it was done and then getting told what to do again. Instead, they can go create and grow and make things happen and have their own outcomes and that is how you not only involve your spouse in the business, but you get them excited to be there.
I want you to just think about something, for the person who wrote me this letter and for all of you. I've worked with a lot of entrepreneurial couples and dozens of times I've been told I'm bringing my spouse into the business and I'm an entrepreneur and they really aren't so I think there's gonna be some challenges. Almost in all cases, here's what I found is that it's not that your spouse isn't an entrepreneur, it's that maybe they're not as much of an entrepreneur or an evolutionary hunter as you are or maybe they really are but around you they don't look like as much because you're over the top. What I found in most entrepreneurial couples is that the spouse that doesn't appear to be entrepreneurial, when they're given the opportunity, rises to the occasion. I'm actually working with a couple right now, Molly Kaiser and Aaron [Silvernail 00:10:07] that are married and they own a company called [Bodie Shots 00:10:11] and they have what might be the fastest growing designation in the photography industry, the certified professional boudoir photographer, and it's intense. Molly and Aaron's business is exploding, but there's a reason. Molly brought Aaron into the business. He started working with her.
We clarified the two of their roles, we put separation into what she's doing and what he's doing, and right now, I can tell you that their business is a daily celebration of success together. Aaron is in his lane, he's operating the business, setting up their targeted interactions, helping corral the team, managing projects and Molly is in her zone of genius. She's creating products, creating videos, building their following, and showing people how to be a better photographer and make thousands instead of hundreds of dollars an hour. It's extraordinary. For me, the most exciting thing about their partnership, their business is that Aaron has taken full ownership of what he is doing and it's incredible because he offsets Molly so well.
I guarantee you there was a point where Molly would have said, "You know, Aaron isn't as entrepreneurial as I am," but on a daily and weekly basis, he is showing how he is in just a different way. So allow for that reality to enter into your relationship. If you're working with your spouse, give them clear outcomes. Let them understand exactly what they're doing. Create the job descriptions. Make sure that they understand what they're supposed to do, what you're supposed to do, and then create a scoreboard to let you both know if you're winning along the way.
Working with your spouse is one of the greatest privileges there is. I coach some of the fastest growing companies in the United States, some of the most successful entrepreneurs out there right now, and over half of my clients are spouses working together. I think that there's something magical and incredible about working in a company with the person that is most important in the world to you, your first follower, with working with the person who is all in for you, who supports you unconditionally, who you can trust and who you know has your back.
As the entrepreneur who started the business, bring your spouse in. Divide the responsibilities. Treat them as a partner. Involve them in decision-making. If they don't understand a decision, explain it until they do. If you do these things, here's what you'll find. One, your relationship will improve because when we start working together, it gives us an opportunity to create a new level of strength in our relationship, a new level of security, a new level of stability and a massive level of connection because when couples achieve together, they stay together. When people achieve together, they stay together. I want you to remember that because it's a privilege to be able to work with your spouse. If you're willing to put some process in place and take the time to set this up correctly, I believe that working with your spouse can be one of the greatest business accelerators that any one of us can ever have. I know working with Cadey has been one of the greatest privileges of my life.
We've been together for 14 years and a very short time after we met, we started working together. We've grown a handful of companies over 10 million dollars. We've created hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. We made ourselves independently wealthy and we've helped hundreds of thousands of people around the world improve their lives, make more money, create momentum and be able to do better and we've done it together and that level of achievement is a bond that nothing can break. The things that we have been through and the successes we have had are rare in any type of partnership, much less in a marriage, and that's made us that much stronger.
So for the person who wrote me this letter, and for all of you that are working to grow a business with your spouse, I want you to know it's one of the most momentum-creating things you can possibly do to work with your spouse. It will pull your marriage closer, it will align you in an entirely new way and my belief is, if you're willing to lean in here and make certain that that spouse feels like a partner, they understand what's going on, they can help you with decision-making, you will see your life, your business, and your results explode. I don't know of anyone I would want to grow a business with like I do with Cadey and for any of you who are working with your spouse, it's probably that same feeling to you. So put in the time, make sure you create clarity, you know what you're doing, what your spouse is doing, make them a partner in the business, explain to them until they understand and you will see just how incredible it is to work with and achieve with the person you love most in the world.
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