Do’s and Don’ts of Seeking Business Advice From a Spouse

Most spouses aren’t officially on the payroll, however they can play an enormous role in the task life of their entrepreneurial partners.

After all, it’s your partner who knows you best. They might provide perspective for your overly optimistic projections, support you through a gutsy decision or help develop your communication and leadership skills. “Spouses could be invaluable coaches or counselors because they’re not absorbed in to the same universe and speak from a far more balanced perspective,” says Marion McCollom Hampton, senior partner at Cambridge Advisors to Family Enterprise.

But it is critical to nurture the spouse-entrepreneur relationship also to avoid making way too many demands, McCollum Hampton adds. “The spouse often experiences the entrepreneur’s business as a rival with regards to time and attention.”

Uncertain how your spouse might help? Consider the experiences of three entrepreneurs who’ve received valuable support from their partners.

Company: Kitchen a la Mode Product: Hard-to-find kitchen and cooking supplies shop Founder: Ben Salmon

Leaving the Manhattan publishing scene to open his dream store in South Orange, N.J., felt just like a risky career move for Ben Salmon. But three . 5 years later, he’s glad he made the change. “I reach reside in small-town America with urban hip New Yorkers,” says Salmon, 30, whose store has carried a lot more than 8,000 items and twice been voted the very best kitchenware store in the state by NJ Monthly magazine’s readers. Sales have increased 60 percent in the last three years.

Ben Salmon

Photo thanks to the company

Salmon attributes part of his success to his wife Emily Cooper, 31, who supports his business decisions–even when he’s wrong. For instance, a nautical-themed summer display this past year didn’t pan out, plus some items remain on the clearance shelf. Salmon leans on Cooper when he makes such mistakes because he requires a dose of optimism. “If she second-guessed my retail instincts,” he says, “the store wouldn’t normally be as strong since it is.”

For the spouse, it could be difficult to help the business enterprise owner cope with disappointment. “I don’t always understand how to help him,” Cooper says.

Salmon considered it vital that you get his wife’s unwavering support before he took the entrepreneurial leap. Before he started the shop, he presented Cooper with a 22-page, single-spaced business plan. “I needed her to learn I was serious,” he says. “Without her endorsement, I don’t believe I possibly could do it.”

Related: Pop the Question. IT CAN HELP Your Business (Opinion)

You can assume your partner can do all you do for your business. But embracing your partner in a pinch can backfire, says Salmon, who soon realized his schoolteacher wife wasn’t designed to work the money register. “She’d key things in wrong, accidentally bag things that the client didn’t buy and accidentally not bag things the client did buy,” says Salmon, who now has three employees. Admittedly, Cooper says, cooking isn’t her forte. “I have no idea the product perfectly at all,” she says. “We joke that I know how exactly to cook is things out of a can or a box.”

Company: Kiwi Crate Inc. Product: Subscription service for creativity kits for kids Founder: Sandra Oh Lin

When Sandra Oh Lin. 37, started Kiwi Crate Inc. last October, she knew her husband Kenneth’s expertise in healthcare startups would help her Mountain View, Calif.-based business. But she’s embracing her spouse a lot more than she expected for advice about her subscription service, which gives activity boxes for kids.

Sandra Oh Lin

With only seven full-time employees, it’s critical that Kiwi Crate make the proper hires, and Kenneth has helped his wife pick individuals who fit the business’s culture, she says. Through the hiring process, Lin informally uses her husband as a sounding board to “talk through” decisions linked to human resources, such as for example which compensation package she plans to provide and how to build the very best talent.

“He’s not really a gating factor, nor an interviewer,” she says. “He simply really helps to reinforce my conviction around valuing good people and compensating them appropriately.” His insights about creating a team are specially helpful, Lin adds, because he knows her strengths and weaknesses.

Related: How ‘Working Spouse’ Rules Can Save a Company Money — And Headaches

But Lin is careful never to rely solely on Kenneth for advice. Prior to making decisions, she also speaks with other people who have launched startups. Still, Kenneth feels he’s being heard. “I’ve yet to run right into a situation with Sandra where a thing that Personally i think very strongly about isn’t seriously weighed and considered,” he says.

Lin believes it’s needed for entrepreneurs to acknowledge their appreciation because of their spouse’s counseling and support. “Finished . which has been tough is ensuring he knows that I’ve appreciated his amount of time in listening and providing feedback,” Lin says. “Because we’re so familiar, I believe I’m liberal about benefiting from his advice and probably taking things for granted.” So at a recently available dinner to celebrate the business’s $5 million in Series A funding, Lin ensured to thank her husband throughout a congratulatory speech.

Company: mySkin Inc. Product: Skin-care advice Cofounder: Rahul Mehendale

MySkin cofounder Rahul Mehendale. 36, can simply get swept up in the day-to-day management of his three-year-old website, his four employees in NY and the a lot more than 30 contractors he uses all over the world. So he often turns to his wife Aarti when he requires a fresh perspective.

Rahul Mehendale

She can easily see the picture as a whole and consider the business’s long-term goals, Mehendale says. “She actually is not tied in to the ideas and will give very candid feedback without getting overly enthusiastic by the coolness of the technology or the theory.”

He has learned to rebel sometimes, though, because Aarti’s risk tolerance is low. “For instance, we had an idea called The Journal where people could take down notes [about their skin online], even though it didn’t appeal to her in its initial drafts, she’s started seeing how it could apply,” he says. “I ensure that she actually is not the only validating perspective.”

Aarti, 31, advises her husband about his leadership style, often giving feedback on the authenticity of his presentations and other communications. Recently, she helped Mehendale simplify presentations to the board of directors to mention information more clearly to individuals who aren’t involved with day-to-day matters. “This outsider perspective,” he says, “has been crucial.”

Aarti also helps her husband cope with stress and achieve work-life balance. “It is critical to have the ability to pull the spouse away into [social] activities,” she says.

Related: Five Simple Rules for Creating a Blockbuster Brand

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