After firing my husband, Joe, at least three times from our family-owned communications and production company because we absolutely could not work together, I was anxious to read a new, self-published book by therapists, Miriam Hawley and Jeffrey McIntyre.
The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based couple interviewed about 45 couples in business together to collect anecdotes and strategies for You & Your Partner, Inc.: Entrepreneurial Couples Succeeding in Business, Life and Love .
I received a copy of the book from the authors and interviewed them over the phone after reading the book. My review of the book follows a few excerpts from my interview.
When I asked the authors why they thought couples owning small businesses needed their own special business book, the authors said since they worked together as therapists, they were curious about how other couples managed to stay in business while maintaining a strong personal relationship. Hawley, who was a co-author of the iconic women’s self-help book, Our Bodies, Ourselves, says:
“I said, ‘let’s find out if our experience matches the experiences of other couples.’ We started out interviewing friends of ours and by the time we gathered the stories, they were so inspiring, we felt we needed to write a book.”
Hawley said most couples are motivated to stay together for many reasons, but couples in business are especially motivated:
“. . .if their finances are dependent on the relationship working out.”
McIntyre, a therapist and coach, said success depends on keeping the lines of communications open and:
“. . .preparing people for conflict… most people get stuck when it comes to having an argument.”
Hawley agrees, adding that couples in business need to set up a process for resolving conflict.
To avoid power plays, the authors recommend the couple identify each person’s skills from the start and be very clear about who does what:
“Make sure there is time for all the different parts of your relationship–intimacy, self-care and your spiritual life.”
About the Book
The chapters are based heavily on transcribed interviews with the couples. While it’s good to hear stories in people’s own voices, the transcripts verbatim and in many cases, the stories shared, are not very interesting. The range of businesses the couples operate is what carries the book. The short tips and commentaries at the end of the chapters are helpful, but often too generic.
However, if you are in business with a spouse or partner and want to learn from the experience of other couples in business, there are some nuggets. The business owners you’ll meet range from retailers to restaurant owners to career counselors. The most interesting couple imports crafts from Kenya.
Katy and Philip Leakey have 1,400 women making beads and crafts from natural elements including grass, for 2,000 stores in the U.S. Philip, son of archeologists Louis and Mary Leakey, met Katy because her parents were founders of the Leakey Foundation. They married in 2001 and started The Leakey Collection in 2002. Philip said in his interview:
“Our business came about as a consequence of our need and desire to help our neighbors. We live in the bush in Kenya amidst the Maasai people, and most of the people, especially the women, have never had a cash economy.”
Chapter Three on how to ‘incorporate’ your children and extended family into the business offers some practical suggestions, but nothing earth-shaking:
“Success means learning how to deal with being parents, caregivers and entrepreneurs all at the same time. In other words, they must become expert jugglers.”
Every small business owner has to be a juggler – but working with your spouse or partner does add a few more challenges to the mix.