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When a Man Marries the Boss

The National Foundation For Women Business Owners says that 6.5 million American women own businesses. We know many women entrepreneurs who have been successful enough to attract their husbands from other corporate or professional careers into executive slots in their rapidly developing ventures. Widows with second husbands and CEO-daughters in family firms provide ample opportunities for the boss's spouse to be her husband. We had a chance to interview three men, each of whom married the sole owner of the companies where they worked. The advice they offer is very similar to what we hear from women who work for their husbands' companies, or offspring who take jobs in their parents' companies:

 

 

  • Work very hard to earn the respect of the organization through proven performance. Patiently nurture your ideas through others rather than asserting yourself or your ideas.
  • Don't respond to gossip or rumors. Husband and wife should firmly pursue a business direction without being distracted by what others might say or think. As the business direction proves itself, the gossip goes away.
  • Reassure the management team that their roles will not be usurped by husband and wife decisionmaking at home. Keep the decisionmaking honestly taking part in the normal company committees.
  • Agree to disagree on business issues. There is no other way. Inevitably, something will come up where spontaneous concurrence is impossible. Speak your differences openly, but let the one closest to the decision make the final call.
  • Clearly define roles for each person, and enjoy the benefits of "division of labor." If you understand each other well enough to predict the other's views on a topic, you don't need to oversee jointly any function or business unit.
  • Let the one with the family name be the spokesperson in public, if he/she is willing. The direct family heir typically should be the one in the public eye.
  • Try not to talk too much business at home.

    In the future we expect more men will be married to the boss. Each of the men we interviewed seemed to enjoy disabusing other males of the notion that they have compromised their masculinity. As one said, "Wouldn't you rather work with someone you care about than for someone you don't like that much?"

 

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