Do's and Don'ts of Seeking Business Advice From a Spouse

Entrepreneur

Most spouses aren't officially on the payroll, but they can play a huge role in the work life of their entrepreneurial partners.

After all, it's often your spouse who knows you best. He or she can provide perspective for your overly optimistic projections, support you through a gutsy decision or help develop your communication and leadership skills. "Spouses can be invaluable coaches or counselors because they are not absorbed into the same universe and speak from a more balanced perspective," says Marion McCollom Hampton, senior partner at Cambridge Advisors to Family Enterprise.

But it's important to nurture the spouse-entrepreneur relationship and to avoid making too many demands, McCollum Hampton adds. "The spouse often experiences the entrepreneur's business as a rival for his or her time and attention."

Not sure how your spouse can help? Consider the experiences of three entrepreneurs who have received valuable support from their partners.

Company: Kitchen a la Mode
Product: Hard-to-find kitchen and cooking supplies shop
Founder: Ben Salmon

Leaving the Manhattan publishing scene to open his dream store in South Orange, N.J., felt like a risky career move for Ben Salmon. But three and a half years later, he's glad he made the change. "I get to live in small-town America with urban hip New Yorkers," says Salmon, 30, whose store has carried more than 8,000 items and twice been voted the best kitchenware store in the state by New Jersey Monthly magazine's readers. Sales have increased 60 percent over the past three years.

Ben Salmon
Photo courtesy of the company

Salmon attributes part of his success to his wife Emily Cooper, 31, who supports his business decisions--even when he's wrong. For example, a nautical-themed summer display last year didn't pan out, and some items are still on the clearance shelf. Salmon leans on Cooper when he makes such mistakes because he needs a dose of optimism. "If she second-guessed my retail instincts," he says, "the store would not be as strong as it is."

For the spouse, it can be difficult to help the business owner deal with disappointment. "I don't always know how to help him," Cooper says.

Salmon considered it important to get his wife's unwavering support before he took the entrepreneurial leap. Before he started the shop, he presented Cooper with a 22-page, single-spaced business plan. "I wanted her to know I was serious," he says. "Without her endorsement, I don't think I could do it."

Related: Pop the Question. It Will Help Your Business (Opinion)

It's easy to assume your spouse can do everything you do for your business. But turning to your spouse in a pinch can backfire, says Salmon, who soon realized his schoolteacher wife wasn't meant to work the cash register. "She'd key things in wrong, accidentally bag things that the customer didn't buy and accidentally not bag things the customer did buy," says Salmon, who now has three employees. Admittedly, Cooper says, cooking is not her forte. "I don't know the product very well at all," she says. "We joke that all I know how to cook is things out of a can or a box."

Company: Kiwi Crate Inc.
Product: Subscription service for creativity kits for kids
Founder: Sandra Oh Lin

When Sandra Oh Lin. 37, started Kiwi Crate Inc. last October, she knew her husband Kenneth's expertise in healthcare startups would help her Mountain View, Calif.-based business. But she's turning to her spouse even more than she expected for advice about her subscription service, which provides activity boxes for kids.

Sandra Oh Lin
Photo courtesy of the company

With only seven full-time employees, it's critical that Kiwi Crate make the right hires, and Kenneth has helped his wife pick people who fit the company's culture, she says. During the hiring process, Lin informally uses her husband as a sounding board to "talk through" decisions related to human resources, such as which compensation package she plans to offer and how to attract the best talent.

"He's not a gating factor, nor an interviewer," she says. "He simply helps to reinforce my conviction around valuing good people and compensating them appropriately." His insights about building a team are especially helpful, Lin adds, because he knows her strengths and weaknesses.

Related: How 'Working Spouse' Rules Can Save a Company Money -- And Headaches

But Lin is careful not to rely solely on Kenneth for advice. Before making decisions, she also speaks with others who have launched startups. Still, Kenneth feels he's being heard. "I have yet to run into a situation with Sandra where something that I feel very strongly about is not seriously weighed and considered," he says.

Lin believes it's essential for entrepreneurs to acknowledge their appreciation for their spouse's counseling and support. "The thing that's been tough is making sure that he knows that I've appreciated his time in listening and providing feedback," Lin says. "Because we're so familiar, I think I'm liberal about taking advantage of his advice and probably taking things for granted." So at a recent dinner to celebrate the company's $5 million in Series A funding, Lin made sure to thank her husband during a congratulatory speech.

Company: mySkin Inc.
Product: Skin-care advice
Cofounder: Rahul Mehendale

MySkin cofounder Rahul Mehendale. 36, can easily get caught up in the day-to-day management of his three-year-old website, his four employees in New York and the more than 30 contractors he uses around the world. So he often turns to his wife Aarti when he needs a fresh perspective.

Rahul Mehendale
Photo courtesy of the company

She can see the big picture and consider the company's long-term goals, Mehendale says. "She is not tied into the ideas and can give very candid feedback without getting carried away by the coolness of the technology or the idea."

He has learned to push back sometimes, though, because Aarti's risk tolerance is low. "For example, we had a concept called The Journal where people could take notes [about their skin online], and while it didn't appeal to her in its initial drafts, she has started seeing how it can apply," he says. "I make sure that she is not the only validating perspective."

Aarti, 31, advises her husband about his leadership style, often giving feedback on the authenticity of his presentations and other communications. Recently, she helped Mehendale simplify presentations to the board of directors to convey information more clearly to people who aren't involved in day-to-day matters. "This outsider perspective," he says, "has been crucial."

Aarti also helps her husband cope with stress and achieve work-life balance. "It's important to be able to pull the spouse away into [social] activities," she says.

Related: Five Simple Rules for Building a Blockbuster Brand

This article originally posted on Entrepreneur.com

Rates

View Comments (0)

Recommended for You

  • Tycoon buys 30 Rolls-Royces for Macau hotel

    A Hong Kong tycoon has placed the biggest ever order for Rolls-Royce cars, agreeing to buy 30 Phantoms to chauffeur guests at a luxury resort he's building in the global gambling capital of Macau. Stephen Hung's $20 million purchase surpasses the 14 Phantoms bought by Hong Kong's Peninsula Hotel in…

    Associated Press
  • 1 Tip To Lose Belly Fat

    It's Hollywood's Hottest Diet And Gets Rid Of Stubborn Fat Areas Like Nothing Else.

    AdChoicesagoodcooksSponsored
  • Before You Buy Alibaba, Check Out 4 Top China Stocks

    Before You Buy Alibaba, Check Out 4 Top China Stocks While investors gear up for Alibaba Group 's (BABA) hotly anticipated initial public offering, don't forget about other Chinese stocks that are worth keeping an eye on. Today's Young Guns Screen of

    Investor's Business Daily
  • Costco Stores in Canada to Stop Taking American Express

    “The credit card relationship between American Express and Costco Wholesale Canada will not be renewed when it expires” on Dec. 31, the company said today in an e-mail to Canadian customers. The message was attributed to Lorelle Gilpin, vice president of marketing and membership for Costco…

    Bloomberg
  • As Fed takes baby steps, Cramer's trick for profit

    In turn, Cramer says making money in the market, involves looking at the environment through the lens of the Fed. "The trick is to remember that they speak for the common person," Cramer said. "The Fed wants the common person to make money." With that backdrop always in mind, Cramer says it becomes…

    CNBC
  • Play

    Citi, Bank of America Offer Discounted Mortgages

    Citigroup and Bank of America will offer mortgages at discounted interest rates to help borrowers with low incomes or subprime credit. AnnaMaria Andriotis joins MoneyBeat. Photo: Getty.

    WSJ Live
  • "The Retiree Next Door": How successful retirees stretch their savings

    "The Retiree Next Door": How successful retirees stretch their savingsBy the time she hit her late 40s, Toni Eugenia wasn’t sure she would ever be able to retire. Eugenia, 56, a pharmacy technician who lived in Houston, was nearly $200,000 in debt and

    Yahoo Finance
  • CNBC Anchor Calls Out Fed-Hater Bill Fleckenstein In Startling Shouting Match

    CNBC Bill Fleckenstein of Fleckenstein Capital appeared on CNBC's Futures Now program on Tuesday. Futures Now host Jackie DeAngelis came out swinging, asking Fleckenstein right at the top if he was willing to admit that he had misunderstood monetary policy. Sounding taken aback, Fleckenstein…

    Business Insider
  • Tired of Living Paycheck to Paycheck?

    New website reveals how to save $1,000's when you're living paycheck to paycheck. See exactly how.

    AdChoices Media ForceSponsored
  • Beanie Babies creator's sentence debated in court

    Beanie Babies creator's sentence debated in court CHICAGO (AP) — Federal prosecutors seeking to put the billionaire creator of Beanie Babies in prison for hiding millions in Swiss bank accounts told appellate court judges Wednesday that the toymaker's sentence of probation threatens to erode the…

    Associated Press
  • Apple to unveil new iPads, operating system on Oct. 21 : report

    The company plans to unveil the sixth generation of its iPad and the third edition of the iPad mini, as well as its operating system OS X Yosemite, which has undergone a complete visual overhaul, the Internet news website said. Trudy Muller, a spokeswoman for Apple, declined to comment. The iPad is…

    Reuters
  • Margaritaville casino owners seek bankruptcy

    The owner of Biloxi's Margaritaville casino has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Tuesday, only hours before a hearing where the landlord aimed to seize the property. The filing by MVB Holding LLC in U.S. Don Dornan, a lawyer for landlord Clay Point LLC, said the company had planned to ask…

    Associated Press
  • Embraer to sell 50 E-175 jets to Republic in $2.1 billion deal

    Brazil's Embraer SA, the world's third largest commercial planemaker, said on Wednesday it booked a firm order from U.S. The deal, which will be included in Embraer's order book for the third quarter, is valued at $2.1 billion, the planemaker said in a securities filing. The planes will be operated…

    Reuters
  • Gilead Stock Is Falling On These Drug Setbacks

    Gilead Stock Is Falling On These Drug Setbacks Gilead Sciences (GILD) shares are backsliding Wednesday on news that the patient drop-out rate for hepatitis C drug Sovaldi is quadruple that of clinical trials. In addition, the biotech's Phase 2 study results

    Investor's Business Daily
  • Here's What Mark Cuban Wishes He Knew About Money In His 20s

    Cuban is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team. Billionaire investor and entrepreneur Mark Cuban is generous with his advice. When we asked him what he wishes he'd known about money in his 20s, he said:

    Business Insider
  • Best Womens Wrinkle Creams 2014

    Mom reveals simple wrinkle solution that has researchers very excited. Try this free solution today to look and feel years younger.

    AdChoicesBellaLabs.comSponsored
  • SHOE COMPANY: Our CEO Just Disappeared And Most Of The Money Is Gone

    "and like that: he's gone." This is an actual headline from a company press release: "CEO and COO disappeared, most of the company's cash missing." (Via FastFT) In a statement, German-based shoe company Ultrasonic said its CFO,  Chi Kwong Clifford Chan, has been unable to reach the company's CEO,…

    Business Insider
  • Play

    What the Fed Meeting Means for Bonds

    Janet Yellen & Co. are expected to hint at their timetable for raising interest rates. Here's how investors should prepare ahead of the meeting.

    WSJ Live
  • Billionaire Investor Says Chinese People Work Harder And Western Companies Could Face Deep Trouble After Alibaba IPO

    Michael Moritz, the chairman of VC firm Sequoia Capital, is a huge fan of Chinese internet companies and reiterated his enthusiasm for the Chinese market in an interview with The Wall Street Journal Wednesday. The billionaire investor described the Alibaba IPO as a “major landmark event” that is as…

    Business Insider
  • Top Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades: AEP, BHP, GE, Incyte, 3M, Tyco, Under Armour and More

    Top Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades: AEP, BHP, GE, Incyte, 3M, Tyco, Under Armour and More Stocks were firm on Wednesday morning ahead of the FOMC meeting outcome. Tuesday’s rally may have sparked higher interest again, and investors are looking for bargains

    24/7 Wall St.
  • 6 Things Debt Collectors Wish You Knew

    The work debt collectors do is not popular, and has become increasingly derided by those who don’t like what we do or simply don’t know the facts about debt collection. Too often, debt collection is painted with a broad brush to create a portrait that isn’t accurate, and doesn’t properly educate…

    Credit.com
  • Boeing may have outfoxed Musk, but it could have bigger problems

    Elon Musk is arguably one of the greatest entrepreneurial minds of the 21st Century, but he was outsized an old school aerospace giant. Boeing won the bulk of NASA’s contract for a space taxi.  One of the other companies vying for the deal is SpaceX, the company headed by Tesla’s Musk, will get a…

    Talking Numbers
  • The New 2015 Sonata®: A Step Above the Competition

    There's a Sonata® that's perfect for you, and this is your chance to build it! Visit the Hyundai® Official Site to customize your 2015 Sonata® today!

    AdChoicesHyundaiSponsored
  • Romney-Sized IRAs Scrutinized as Government Studies Taxes

    The preliminary report attaches data to an issue that drew attention during the 2012 presidential campaign, when Republican nominee Mitt Romney reported an IRA worth $20 million to $102 million. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden said many of these "massive" accounts come from deals…

    Bloomberg