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For better or for worse? How to Succeed in Business with your Spouse

Simon Shaw | 6 February 2019

With over 1.4m UK businesses being run by couples in 2018, what is the secret to ensuring business stays business when you work with your life partner?

Big UK companies such as Emma Bridgewater, Jo Malone and Go Ape! were all started by husband/wife teams, and with Emma Bridgewater turning over £17.6m in 2017, it's clear that, if you get it right, you can turn your business partnership into a story of spousal success.

I met my wife Tracy in 1992, when we were working together at another accountancy firm. In 1998, after we got married, I was looking for a change (of job that is!) and heard about a job at Duncan & Toplis. Tracy joined the team in 2016 and, although we work in different offices now, the “one-firm” approach that Duncan & Toplis emphasises means that there are many overlaps.

My top tips for working with your spouse:

  • Leave work at work - no one wants to argue about work problems at home, but when you work with your partner, this can be difficult. Try to make a conscious effort to turn your business emails off and spend time with each other as partners, as opposed to colleagues
  • Be your own person in the office - treat your partner like a colleague, and, as with leaving work at work, try and leave personal issues at home too
  • Pretend you don't work together. Asking someone how their day was when you were there may seem pointless, but it helps to separate that professional attitude with how someone may actually be feeling. Let your partner vent if they want to, and listen, not as a colleague, but as a spouse.

Tracy and I have found working together to be a positive experience but unfortunately, marriages sometimes don't work out. What do you do if your personal relationship breaks down but your business is still thriving?

One of our clients, Loopwheels, has their own advice for making it work. Gemma Pearce and her husband Sam put a more formal governance structure in place last year. “We've always worked well together,” says Gemma, “but every business decision is personal. With another staff member joining the team and an independent chairman it's working really well for us”.

At Duncan & Toplis, we're regularly asked to help people organise their business affairs and our client's needs are at the heart of our work. If you'd like to find out how we can help you, please contact Duncan & Toplis by calling 0808 169 1196.

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