Early summer is the traditional time when we as a nation honor moms with Mother’s Day and dads with Father’s Day. However, in the small business world we know that if we were creating holidays, there would be one more person we would want to acknowledge: Spouses. Husbands. Wives. Girlfriends and boyfriends. Partners.
My dear old Dad was the first and best entrepreneur I ever knew. But he didn’t do it alone, just like you and I don’t do it alone. Dad had a great, and sometimes to outward appearances silent, partner: Mom. But I didn’t know it at the time. Back then, when I was growing up, I remember my Mom saying how she and my Dad had created that businesses and grew it together. Being young and arrogant, I always humored Mom when she said that. I knew it was really my Dad who built that business.
That is, of course, until I grew up.
I have this pet theory: I think every great cuisine has a ‘secret ingredient’ that gives that food its unique flavor. For Chinese food, it is sesame oil. Mexican food? Cilantro. What I didn't know when I was a young kid is that a spouse, be it a husband, wife, or significant other, is the secret ingredient in the recipe that makes for a great small business.
This is true for all sorts of reasons.
First of all, the vast majority of small businesses are run by intrepid solopreneur, self-employed people. These may be sole proprietors or freelancers, but whatever the case, it is usually a situation where one person wears a lot of hats, and that is where a mate comes in. If the good news about working alone is that there is no one to report to or to bug you, the bad news is that you end up in a vacuum where it is hard to get perspective. For many people, it is their spouse who becomes their trusted advisor and sounding board.
Another reason partners are so important to the small businessperson is that they can be more frank with you than probably anyone else. Is that idea as great as you think? Maybe, but maybe not, and certainly your spouse will tell you why. Additionally, the advice you get from th
em will likely be unique: While mates may not know your businesses as well as you do, that can also be a
blessing. By discussing business issues with a ‘layman’, you get a perspective that can at times be invaluable.
Additionally, needless to say, spouses also often help out in the business by picking up the slack, handing the books, shipping a package, and more.
Of course, your partner keeps the home fires burning too. We all know that starting and running a small business is a major commitment. Having a supportive teammate can make things easier by taking care of some extra household duties, especially in the first few years of the business when the time commitment to the business is usually the hardest.
Finally, a great mate can help boost morale when it is needed, and cheer you on when things are going well.
So, although my dear, sweet Mom is no longer with us, I would still like to say, “You were right, Mom. You did help build that business.” And to all of the great spouses and partners out there, we would like to thank you very, very much. We couldn't do it without you.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.
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