Wednesday 21 February 2018

Why it's more difficult for a couple to run a successful business

Problem Solver

Fergal Quinn
Fergal Quinn

Feargal Quinn

Q My wife and I run a business together; however we disagree on lots of issues and the result is decisions don't get made. Can you give any advice?

Fergal replies: While there are always exceptions to every rule, I have come across a lot of businesses run by couples where the business potential isn't being maximised. The problem is usually as you describe. Partners have differing views on a certain aspect of the business, they disagree, but in order not to "rock the boat" no decision is made in order to avoid confrontation.

The reality is that someone needs to be in charge and unless those rules of engagement are agreed at the beginning, it is very hard for one or the other partner to pull rank where critical decisions need to be made.

There's also the issue of being able to walk away from the business at closing time and sit opposite each other without getting drawn back into business conversation.

I see two possible options. Draw up clear roles and responsibilities and nominate one of you in a more senior position so that when critical decisions need to be made and there isn't common agreement, then one of you has to make a call. Alternatively, perhaps it is time to consider that one of you exits the business and finds a new career. The important thing is that you make some decision as you cannot live with the current situation.

Q What traits do you look for in a successful business person?

Fergal replies: The reality is that different people are successful for different reasons but if your question is whether there are common traits in successful business entrepreneurs then I think there are. Almost every successful business entrepreneur I meet exudes passion and self-belief and sometimes, when others might have given up, this self-belief gets them over the line.

In many cases these entrepreneurs are also natural leaders and have the ability to bring their team with them on their journey. Hand-in-hand with this is the ability to motivate others.

Sometimes entrepreneurs can be perceived as difficult or argumentative as they have to fight their way around perceived norms in order to set out on a new direction. The last quality is probably an ability to challenge convention. It is all too easy to do things as they were done yesterday; it takes a brave business person to challenge the norm.

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