Often, business partners will reach a level of comfort with each other after working together. But what happens when you open up shop with someone you already know well—your spouse?

Running a business together might put a strain on your love life; if it doesn’t work out, you could jeopardize both relationships.

“You’d wind up with a mix of matters to deal with,” says David Shlagbaum, a Toronto family business lawyer and senior partner at Robins Appleby & Taub LLP. “This includes a combination of family-related and business issues.”

He suggests creating a partnership agreement to reduce such hassles (see “What to consider before going into business,” next page).

To find out how partners make their relationships work in the office and at home, we spoke to three advisor couples. They offered the following tips:

  1. Respect the other person’s skills;
  2. Shut up and listen;
  3. Try not to take work problems home;
  4. Communicate regularly and provide feedback;
  5. Apologize when you’re wrong; and
  6. Give credit when it’s deserved.

So whether you work with your spouse, relative or friend, the lessons these couples have learned throughout the years apply.

Melanie Ferrandi and Doug Leard
Assante Financial Management Ltd.Vancouver, BC
AUM: $115 million

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Melanie Ferrandi and Doug Leard met while working as financial planners at Assante Financial Management, and married in 1997. But it wasn’t until 2000 that they combined practices.

“We realized we knew a lot of each other’s clients,” explains Ferrandi. “We thought it’d be easier to work together because clients were familiar with both of us and we have similar work styles.”

Melanie Ferrandi and Doug Leard

We can put ourselves in the other’s shoes. it’s nice to talk to somebody who knows instantly what you’re feeling.”

Melanie Ferrandi and Doug Leard

For instance, both eschew stock picking, focusing instead on comprehensive planning and tax issues.

All of their 250 households, most of which are wealthy families, know they’re married. Many have been clients for years and remember they had a daughter in 1999. With new clients they’re up front, telling them the team includes the couple and their two assistants.

Most of the time they serve clients independently, although all marketing material has both their names on it. This way, when one is away clients know they can turn to the other.

But they do take vacations together. “We book during down time and our assistants take over,” says Leard. “If you work in separate industries, you might not have the same slow periods, so it’s harder to have this luxury.”

Although many say they’d never work with their spouse, says Leard, the key is to keep business and personal lives separate. The two specialize in different areas. While he handles retiree clients, Ferrandi, a certified divorce planner, assists those going through a divorce or separation. Meanwhile, they rarely talk about work at home—plus, their daughter keeps them busy.

Ferrandi notes there’s the added benefit of a spouse who can sympathize when there’s a rough day at work. “We can put ourselves in the other’s shoes. It’s nice to talk to somebody who knows instantly what you’re feeling.”

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Great article Suzanne, but I think you missed a critical step. I would add Step 1, marry someone you like. haha.

I built a practice with my wife and for many years people couldn’t believe we could do it.

Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 11:53 am Reply