Should My Spouse Have a Say in the Family Business?

Should my spouse who does not work in the family business have a say in compensation or other matters involving the next generation members in the family business?

Business Leader Post, February 14, 2012

Thomas D. Davidow, Ed.D.

The answer is yes and no! I do not think it is possible for the spouse not to have a stake in the careers/future of their offspring. So it is not wise to totally shut them out of what is going on because they are going to hear the "stories" anyway. Usually the version that they hear is one sided and distorted so you are always better off keeping them up to date. The dynamic of children with their parents always floats into the business in some form. It is just as necessary for parents to be on the same page to address the challenges of the next generation in the business as it was for them to be on the same page when they were growing up.

At the same time, there has to be a separation of family and business in the context of the "boss" who needs to be able to institute best business practices without interference. This includes areas such as compensation, evaluations, promotions, etc.

The simple answer is that the boss ought to inform and consult with their spouse but the criteria for the decision ought to be what is best for the business as defined by the spouse who runs the business. Clearly, that is much easier said than done. Parents always want what is best for their kids. I suggest that you start with sharing information. It increases the odds of your landing in the same place.