Momentum Podcast: 278

Successfully Working With Your Spouse

by Alex Charfen

Episode Description

There are five things I cover when working with spouses that run business. Working with your spouse can be amazing unless you have these core components. 

In fact, it can become a meat grinder. The pressure of running a business is huge. There is no relationship that is perfect. These foundational concepts will help you significantly.

Full Audio Transcript

I'm Alex Charfen, and this is the Momentum Podcast, made for empire builders, game changers, trailblazers, shot takers, record breakers, world makers, and creators of all kinds. Those among us who can't turn it off and don't know why anyone would want to. We challenge complacency, destroy apathy, and we are obsessed with creating momentum so we can roll over bureaucracy and make our greatest contribution.

Sure, we pay attention to their rules, but only so that we can bend them, break them, then rewrite them around our own will. We don't accept our destiny. We define it. We don't understand defeat because you only lose if you stop, and we don't know how. While the rest of the world strives for average and clings desperately to the status quo, we are the minority, the few who are willing to hallucinate. There could be a better future, and instead of just daydreaming of what could be, we endure the vulnerability and exposure it takes to make it real. We are the evolutionary hunters, clearly the most important people in the world because entrepreneurs are the only source of consistent, positive human evolution, and we always will be.

Successfully working with your spouse. I just got back from, as you know if you listen, a couple days at Taki Moore's event out in California. I didn't have a topic in mind for tonight's podcast, so I made a post on Facebook asking for topics, and Wallace Nelson, one of my clients in our High-end Mastermind in our Billionaire Code Grow and Scale mastermind, he asked, "Do a podcast on working with your spouse." And I've done a few, but I wanted to do one on successfully working with your spouse and the five things that I do with every couple that I ever work with. I'll tell you where my experience with this comes from.

So first, when I was a consultant, starting at 21, I'm 45 now, a lot of the businesses I worked with were family owned business where I was working with a husband and wife, where I was working with spouses. A lot of the businesses I worked with in real estate were husband and wife teams, a lot. In fact, geez, one of the biggest ones, RE/MAX, was Dave and Gail Liniger. I dealt with both of them. I talked to both of them.

This is one of those areas that I have personal experience in and I've also done a tremendous amount of coaching in. And so what that means is I've made a ton of mistakes and I've been able to make hypothesis about how to solve those mistakes. I've been able to get leverage by using tons of my coaching clients to see if stuff worked, and over time I can tell you that working with your spouse is one of the greatest privileges there is. In fact today, these days, I coach a ton of couples. And it's awesome because working with your spouse is like, you can have a daily celebration. You can be excited about what you're doing. The day that Cadey and I made $1,000,000 in a day net, that's an insane day in your life. It's an unreasonable day in your life. It's a day where, I think if I had done that on my own, it might have just been weird. When I did it with Cadey it was like we did it. It was exciting. We were together. We reinforced each other's belief in what we were doing.

I think it can be amazing to work with your spouse, but if you don't have the following five things in place, I want you to know something, working with your spouse, and I don't pull punches as a consultant or a coach. I've been doing this too long. I'm not gonna tell you anything that isn't gonna work, and I'm gonna tell you when something won't work. And if you don't have these five things, working with your spouse will be a meat grinder. Not when, not if, it will. Because the pressure of running a business is simply too great for you not to have the following in place. And the pressure of just having a healthy marriage is massive.

And here's what I believe. I believe that running a business with your spouse can actually help you have a better marriage than those who don't, because you're more connected. You have joint goal setting, joint decision-making. You are each other's first follower. You support each other. And I want you to know, it doesn't matter what position your spouse has in your business, your team is going to see them as your spouse. And so the two of you have a responsibility to each other and have an opportunity to support each other like few spouses possibly can.

And the most important thing is you can win together, because spouses that win together will figure out a way to stay together, because marriage is hard. There will be times where you question your marriage, especially if you're running a business together. No matter what you do. There's no relationship that's perfect. I've worked with way too many people that, and when I say there will be times where you question a marriage, there will be times where you'll question what's going on or you question what's happening, when you're frustrated, when you're confused, when you feel like the same thing's happening too often, or you can't be heard. And it happens to every single married person.

The way that I know that there's a diagnosis, or the way that I know that there's going to be symptoms is not if somebody's happily married, it's if someone's married. There's always, and it ends up having some type of challenge or disagreement. Human beings are just, we're different. And when we're going to be up close and personal with another person for a long time, there will be times where we need to pull together. And if you're gonna run a business together, here are the five things that have helped Cadey and I for over 15 years produce well over $100 million in gross revenue, hundreds actually. It's probably two or three hundred million dollars in gross revenue when you look at all the businesses we've had. And we put a company on the Inc. 500 list at number 21. We've started dozens of companies together. We've made tens of millions of dollars in profit together. We're independently wealthy together and these are the things that have helped us, but I want you to know something, these are the things that I figured out by really screwing things up. In ways that I don't really believe you have to.

I know we all have to learn our lessons, but before I understood what I'm going to share with you, there were times where I took the pressure of the business out on my wife in ways that were unreasonable. There were times where there was so much going on that I unloaded on Cadey in ways that were unreasonable and mean and me just expressing my anger. And here's the problem, if you're gonna work with your spouse, and you don't put these things in place, they are the person you'll unload on, because it's most safe. And that's what I see over and over and over again. So I want to make sure that we help you avoid that. So here's the five things.

So first, clear roles. You and your spouse have to have clearly defined roles that do not overlap, and that it's easy to see the difference between, and you have to have them written. So go to a white board, draw a line down the middle, put a name on either side and start, and don't finish until you're done. Everything that each of you is doing and then that also indicates what you're not doing. And then let each other do your stuff and ask for help when needed, but clear roles is crucial.

Second, a forward looking planning structure, a strategic planning structure that allows you to work back from your client-centric mission, to what you will do on a day-to-day basis with a strategic plan. Because once you have a strategic plan looking forward, where you know you can anticipate what's coming, you and your spouse can work together. Now you have the say to align together around what's going on in the business around a strategic plan. And again it doesn't matter what position your spouse has in the company, your marriage is most important, and transparency in your marriage is absolute. So whether you work with your spouse or not, it's a good idea to have that strategic plan and share it with them. That's how Cadey and I are staying aligned right now in our weekly meetings while she's on sabbatical. I'm sharing our waterfall, our current 90-day plan. I show her every 30 day renewal. She sees what we're succeeding at. She sees what we're doing, what we're not doing. And that forward-looking structure also allows her to anticipate what's coming next and how many people I'll have on the team and what's going on.

So when you have that for you and your spouse, you can have an additional alignment outside of the business around the strategic plan. If you're working together, you have to make sure you are aligning. Then next, in your business, you need a communication structure. A structure of meetings where the team knows when they're gonna hear from you, why they're gonna hear from you, what's going to occur in each of those what we call "targeted interactions," what the outcomes are, so that they know how to succeed. Because if you and your spouse are working together, you want to keep miscommunications to an absolute minimum, because your team will already occasionally be confused because when one of you says one thing and the other one says another, they will be at a stalemate, and it will freak them out.

So having a communication system where they know when they're gonna hear from you, they don't just get word from on high. They know when they're going to be in an interaction with you and hearing results, or planning, or knowing what they need to do next. So clear communication structure throughout your entire company, regardless of how big it is, every single person should know when they're gonna be updated about what's going on in the company, what their objectives are, what they're supposed to be doing next, and it should be like clockwork, because then your team will trust it.

And then the fourth thing, is you need a hiring system, a system for identifying what your constraints are, where you need to hire next, and how to do that over and over again and find true believers that are gonna support you like crazy, and give you their discretionary time, because if you and your spouse are working together, here is one of the biggest pitfalls I see in couples working together. Is that one of the spouses is doing something they love to do like speak or do something else, or do something that the really love doing, they're the speaker, the author, they're running the business, they're coding the software, and the other spouse is doing all of the stuff that that spouse doesn't like doing. And that's how the business is structured. And if you and your spouse work together and you're thinking, "Crap, I think that might be our business," go back to step one and start creating some clear roles, and then you have to have a hiring system where you can find people to do the parts of the business that are tactical so that you can move into more strategic opportunities.

And what you'll see is that for you as an entrepreneur, over and over again, that move that you want to take next is a strategic move so you have to get what you're doing now covered tactically through clear hiring and there's no one size fits all. I'm gonna do a podcast called, "One size its all will kill you," because there's consultants out there that claim they can tell you exactly who you should hire next on your team no matter what type of business you're running, and the structure you should have, and how it should all look. And that's garbage. Today businesses are snowflakes, structures are so radically different than they've ever been in the past, and I can tell you, I've been a professional consultant for over 25 years, and the range of structures and scope of executive teams, and the types of positions today are more unique than they ever have been in history, especially at the most successful companies.

So you need a system that builds the structure and the infrastructure for your business, not what somebody tells you about the ideal business, it's your business, and you, your personality as an entrepreneur, and your personality as spouses.

And then the fifth, this is the most important, and I mentioned it earlier when I talked about the forward-looking structure, but you and your spouse must align outside of the business. You have to give additional time for the two of you to align, and to spend time together, and to discuss the business before you go into targeted interactions with your team. Before you're present with your team, you and your spouse should already have aligned on where you want to go and what's going on and what position you both have. Through discussing it in system, the same type of a systematic communication cadence, because that way when you get in front of your team, you present a unified front. And when you have a unified front, your team will trust you. And if you and your spouse every argue in front of your team, you're gonna trigger 50% or more into some childhood reaction of Mommy and Daddy fighting, and that is not a healthy environment for work.

Work isn't where, in business isn't where you and your spouse should be working things out. In fact, you can use the structure in the business to pull together closer, to align together, to win together. Do you know how few couples actually get to win together? Not only do you get to set a net worth goal each year together, you then get to go into the business and drive it like crazy to get it there. And if you support each other and you're each other's first followers, this can be the most rewarding and the most exciting thing you do for your business. I know 'cause Cadey and I have done it. And I love succeeding, but I love it so much better when Cadey's there.

We've had some incredible stuff happening in the business and it's been weird because she hasn't been in the meetings or seeing the results with the team like she normally would have. And it's been a massive adjustment for me. And so if you get the opportunity to work with your spouse, put these things in place because these will save your marriage. And I'm lucky that Cadey and I made it through everything that happened in our marriage. And there were absolutely times, especially early on, where I took the pressure of the business out on her, in ways that were unreasonable. And I think sooner or later that happens to almost every business owner. We act in a way that's unreasonable whether it's aggressive like I was or passive-aggressive like a lot of people are, they just stop talking or they withdraw.

And I think that is one of the hardest admissions that I make about my life is that I actually allowed the business to come in between Cadey and I and cause problems in my marriage. That's frustrating for me now. I wouldn't let that happen now. I make sure she understands what's going on. I make sure that she knows what's happening in the business. I share with her what's going on. We sit down, we align, she asks me questions, and then that way there isn't that separation.

And so if you're going to work with your spouse, I encourage you, but get these systems in place and it will help you protect yourselves and protect your marriage. And they're the exact same systems necessary to grow your business, and pretty much exactly the same. So if you do the planning, and you have the systems, and you do it for your marriage, and you do it for your business, you start creating not only the habit of succeeding together, but the habit of having these systems together, and you will become unstoppable.

If you are ready to put some of these systems into your business, whether you're working with your spouse or not, if you want to understand how to create clear roles, that forward-looking planning structure, a communication system, the hiring system, the way that you align your entire team in the direction of your biggest outcomes, and make certain that everyone gets there, then join me next week. I'm going to be doing a webinar on our Billionaire Code Framework, and one of the things that is holding most entrepreneurs back, is they can't anticipate where they're going next. Just like I said in this podcast, if you don't know where you're going next, it's really hard to anticipate what you need and that will cause conflict. And whether you've been working on your own, or you're trying to build a team, or you're growing the team you have, go to and join me next week. I'm gonna be doing a presentation on the full Billionaire Code, this time with visuals. If you've heard the podcast episodes, you don't want to miss this. It's live, I'll answer every question. I look forward to seeing you next week.

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