If you google the term “women who hire their husbands” you mostly find misguided links to stories where a woman has attempted to hire a hit man to off her husband. While I find humor in the erroneous search results, is this a relationship phenomenon? I’m pretty sure I haven’t missed any Disney movies where the princess marries the prince, her dowry becomes the seed money for a start-up business and then she brings him on as COO. Do real women have success with bringing Prince Charming on to the payroll?
Would you ever hire your Prince Charming?
As a self employed woman, my first instinct is to keep personal and professional separate. I love nothing more than venting about my day with my husband. We have very different careers, yet with similar challenges which means over the years, we’ve acted as good sounding boards for one another. We are a good team: as husband and wife and as parents. We also enjoy each others company and would love to spend more time together. But as employer and employee?
It works for those like Feuza Ries, wedding photographer. Feuza is in the business of happily ever after. Working side by side with her partner translates to a unique selling proposition for her clients when she can offer him as the videographer bundled under her company’s services, “Couples love the idea that I work with my husband”. But the situation can also bring up marital tension; Feuza admits, “We usually argue the morning of (the wedding)”.
Experts state that arguing is normal in any marriage, “Because your husband is not your clone, your opinions will sometimes differ. How you negotiate those differences is predictive of how healthy a relationship you will have, “says Dr. Gail Saltz, TODAY Show contributor. Nancy Lynn Jarvis, owner of Good Read Mysteries, a growing publishing company tells us, “It took about a year and a half for us to settle into a successful way of working together. It involved compromise and learning some objectivity on both our parts, but once we got it down, we both improved our business…I think the experience has strengthened our marriage.”
As founder of two successful doggy services, NY Walk & Train and Far Fetched Acres, Colleen Safford finds that one of the biggest benefits of hiring her husband is the flexibility the arrangement offers her family. Being self-employed, the couple actually works longer hours than when they held traditional, separate careers. However, without the additional commute her husband used to endure, “we actually get to eat dinner with our kids and put them to bed- more than just on weekends!”
Banished to the Dungeon or Happily Ever After?
Business growth, increased flexibility, stronger marriages: Is there any downside to hiring your husband? Nancy Davies Tang, owner of Glass Orchids hired her husband when business was booming and she really needed the help. But she says, “I had a hard time ‘letting go’ some of the very personal feelings of ownership in the business I built.” When Nancy’s husband wanted to make business process improvements Nancy admits, “I fought it tooth and nail…even though I knew it was really necessary.”
With over 16 years of experience in working with her husband Susie Hayman is passionate about this type of arrangement. She offers advice on three crucial pieces to have in place to make it a success: 1) The Structure- legally, what percentage of ownership will you each have? 2) The Operations- Defined roles and responsibilities, personal work space and a documented succession plan securing the future of the business in a will. But the most important part is 3) The Relationship piece- Having mutual respect for what each other does, being acutely aware of strengths and weaknesses and a willingness to let go can help to avoid control issues when they arise.
And control issues will arise. Tang discovered the give-and-take necessary to keep things afloat, “He had to learn when his advice was not welcome…and I had to learn to let him have control of some things such as business processes and flow.”
Hiring your husband takes the term “partner” to a whole new level; however, the majority of women we interviewed for this piece said the pros far outweighed the cons. Not only are women cultivating their careers with their husbands by their side but they are also working on their marriage through the process. Building a business is very much like building a marriage. Whether or not you choose to walk down that aisle is up to you. Colleen Safford shares one of her success secrets, “We are both emotionally invested.” Isn’t that what every great love story is about? For those who have harnessed the modern day fairy tale we wish you…happily ever after.