The prospect of adding an employee to your small business can be exciting, but daunting at the same time. When that employee is your spouse or significant other, it can add an additional layer of excitement and anxiety. Having recently added my husband to my team as the chief operating officer, I can tell you that while it is at times stressful, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Hiring any employee requires careful consideration, but hiring a spouse is an entirely different animal. It’s better to get all of the employee onboarding elements mapped out upfront because they are things that will create fear and uncertainly for you both, which could, ultimately, lead to a breakdown of your business and your relationship.
Overall, you want to ensure there is a defined structure when bringing your spouse into the business. To create that structure, I recommend focusing on the following areas:
Salary and benefits
These items will lay the foundation for bringing your spouse into your business and tend to be the more stress-inducing aspects of adding any employee to small business. Start by making sure you and your spouse are on the same page financially. Ask yourself the questions, how are you each going to be paid and how frequently? How will your salaries weave into the financial landscape of your business? Chances are your company already has a financial plan and structure. Review both to determine the salary you and your spouse will be paid and how.
Next consider benefits, things like health insurance and retirement plans. How do the benefits fit into the financial plan and what are the options for the company to provide those? When looking at salary and benefits and what your company can afford, be sure to involve your accountant. She can provide guidance and support when building the structure, and in anticipation for tax time.
Roles and responsibilities
When any business is preparing to hire a new employee, a job description is created. This should be no different when you bring your spouse into your business. Outline roles and responsibilities for each of you so you both know who is responsible for what and you can minimize redundancy.
After creating the descriptions, consider designing a workflow. What will your spouse be taking on that you were in charge of before? How will this impact productivity and the flow for the rest of the company?
This can be an opportunity for you to grow as a business owner and leader. You’ve been in control and relinquishing these things can be a big step. Think of it as an opportunity to look at areas of the business where you’d love to devote more effort, but haven’t been able to. It’s a great time to have someone else take on those responsibilities to maximize efficiency, profitability and overall impact.
As you’re working through the shifts of having your spouse as an employee, and making your business more profitable, it’s helpful to have an unaffiliated third party for support and insight. Bringing in a business coach or advisor who doesn’t have any emotional ties to you or your business can help make the business more productive. This person will see things from an outside perspective and can help identify strengths, as well as weaknesses, of your structure to help bring greater cohesion.
Schedule and communication
It may be easier said than done, especially at first, but set a work schedule. If communication with your spouse is about your business 24/7, your business may flourish, but it will have a negative impact on your marriage.
Remember, you and your spouse are working at your own business as a way to make life better and have more time, freedom and space for family. Once the schedule is set, hold each other accountable. If you both decide that work communication stops at dinner time, make sure you’re honoring that agreement.
Within the work schedule, consider setting aside time each week for a big picture business “check-in,” such as a lunch or coffee meeting, as a way to create space specifically for open business communication. Bonus points for scheduling a date night or luncheon outside of this.
Communication is the lifeblood of growth and human connection, and it is the foundation for successful relationships. Be open and honest with each other about how things are going in the business, how you’re feeling, and where greater support is needed from one another or an outside party. Working together is an unparalleled opportunity to be each other’s support system on a whole new level. It’s an opportunity to build trust and to create something powerfully aligned with your bigger mission and purpose.
While there is a great deal of business planning involved when hiring a spouse, there will be plenty of time for business accountability. One of the greatest aspects of making this massive shift inside your business and family is the invitation to become even more personally responsible for showing up in all aspects of our lives.
When you are your own boss, it can be stressful at times knowing that the business income is now supporting the entire family. An important question to ask yourself is, “When do I put down the phone and stop responding to emails for a few hours?” Having your spouse as someone who can help make sure you’re living a more holistic lifestyle and not getting buried in work is a blessing. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, you can’t be a great spouse, mom or friend, let alone a great business leader.
By planning ahead and setting the groundwork, hiring your spouse can be more rewarding and exciting than stressful. Be sure to keep the lines of communication open and don’t be afraid to ask each other for help. This transition can be the best decision you’ve made for your business and life ever!