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Being in business with your spouse has its challenges.

COURTESY: MICHELLE SHAFFER - Michelle Shaffer.

The words “I’m married to my work” never seem to be uttered by happy people. Such a statement might come from some with shadows under their eyes who have mastered their clients’ birthdates, but forgotten the names of their own children.

Work somehow took a turn for the worse. What began as showing up with a bounce in their step and a feeling of significance now feels more like exhaustion and unappreciation all the time. It’s not unlike a neglected marriage — they all started well. Yet with 13,791 divorces in Oregon in 2015 (according to the Oregon Center for Health Statistics) there are still brave souls who incorporate their spouse to tackle the day-to-day business operations.

In 1997 Richard De Wolf founded Arciform LLC, specializing in the restoration and remodel of vintage and historic homes and structures. Anne De Wolf became a partner in 1998 and says that certain limits must be put in place to make the ‘spouse as business partner’ union successful.

“We love what we do so it’s easy for us to intertwine our life with our work, but work-related subjects are never discussed before seven in the morning nor after seven in the evening,” she says. “Having very strong-willed friends who make sure I get away from the daily grind helps me tremendously.”

With money and financial problems often cited as top reason for the demise of a marriage, one could assume that the stress of keeping a business profitable would also be detrimental to the relationship between married business owners.

“At times the stress can be overwhelming, but since we’re sharing the worries —which can frequently be resolved — it is often easier to tackle together,” said Anne. “Considering that all work has its stressful moments, not being able to share them with your life partner may be more challenging for the relationship.”

COURTESY: MICHELLE SHAFFER - Mike and Amy Rosenberg of Veracity.

Marriage is the company’s best asset

“Everyone has to have work-life balance,” says Mike Rosenberg who runs Veracity, a boutique marketing agency based in Portland with his wife Amy Rosenberg.

“A family dinner could easily be taken over by a client issue,” Mike said. Still, Mike feels such a partnership has big advantages.

“While on vacation together, we had a client emergency come up that couldn’t be handled without both of us. We were able to just go in the next room, have a 15 minute meeting and come up with a solution.”

As for this particular venture, the marriage came before the business, with the idea to join forces coming later.

“Amy was running the business as a consultant and her client load was getting past the point that she could handle it on her own,” Mike said. “At the same time, the agency that I had helped build was acquired. Putting all of our eggs in one basket was a bold — stupid perhaps — move, but we really made the decision together. “

Is it for everyone?

“There is never a dull moment,” says Anne De Wolf. “Though I would suggest that a person who skirts confrontation may want to think twice about such a partnership — as disagreements are common.” Anne also merits transparency as a vital component to a successful business partnership.

“There shouldn’t be any guessing about what your business partner thinks,” she says. “I am a big fan of transparency and have that in spades!”

When to call it quits

However, even the happiest of marriages don’t make a successful transition into sharing a business. When Nick Footer founded Intuitive Digital, a digital marketing agency in Portland, he hired his wife Hailey as a graphic designer. After a period of time, it became clear that she was not a good fit for the company and he had to let her go. He fired his wife. All worked out for the best however; Hailey has since opened her own thriving graphic design business business. Nick sometimes references this example of the business’s early days as a testament that no one relationship — no matter how personal, takes precedence over an entire company with several employees. He credits transparency and trust to making a business work.

Owning your own business requires a leap of faith, much like committing yourself to a significant other. It’s even more of a gamble when you combine the two. Successful married business partners express that with open communication and ground rules about when to talk shop and when not to, the arrangement can offer rewards, personally and professionally.