So what if you can't recite your vows after all these years. You remember the gist. “For better or worse. In sickness and in health. In accounts payable and receivable.” Wait. What was that last one? Doesn't sound familiar? Well, if you and your spouse share ownership and management of your company, it should. So says the current thinking about the newest and fastest-growing segment of small business —entrepreneurial couples or “copreneurs,” if you want to sound in the know.
Truth is financial realities such as AR and AP and cash flow now draw fine points on “richer and poorer” for couples opting to become business — as well as lifetime — partners. And “as long as we both shall live” seems much more reasonable (though, granted, not nearly so romantic) to husband-and-wife business owners who honor a reliable month-end statement.
Remodeling — with deep roots often as a family or home-based business — has always been ripe for spousal support. That's nothing new. As work got rolling, the wife (yep, it was usually the woman) pitched in, answering the phone or keeping the books.
It made good business sense. She didn't have to draw a paycheck. Or if she did, it went straight to household income. No need for benefits either. Commitment was a given. And if a remodeler couldn't trust his wife with company secrets, whom could he trust?
In their heyday, such husband-and-wife working relationships were the norm. Indeed, the rationale behind the traditional model continues to hold true for couples content with the time-honored roles.
But some women find these jobs a tight fit. Forced expectations creep into the work-place. Before you know it, the helpful wife is stuck in a job that's all wrong for her — like a framer asked to do detail work or, worse yet, someone else's punch-out. What comes next? Disappointment. Apathy. Resentment. Or worse.
Today's entrepreneurial couples take a more proactive view, deciding where their strengths lie ahead of time. They demand more from their partnerships, at home and at work. More structure. More time off. More balance. Their companies — and their marriages — are better off for it.
It's hard to put an exact number on remodeling companies with entrepreneurial couples as owners. Many opt to list one person as sole proprietor. Other remodelers don't share ownership but still share company responsibilities with their spouse.
Business coach Clay Nelson does have interesting anecdotal evidence. Nelson, who counts the remodeling and custom building industries among his specialties, estimates about 60% of his clients are married couples. But beyond that, he doesn't talk quantity. “I see an increase in quality couples in business,” says Nelson.
“I see an increase in couples knowing what they want — not just what their mom and dad wanted.” Nelson, who was a builder himself, grew up with a general contractor for a father.
“I see an increase in couples who want to get somewhere,” he continues, “who take pride in doing what they do and want to teach their kids how to do it.”
Nelson, who has been a business and family coach for 26 years, always comes back to the importance of a solid foundation. “The business is only as good as the marriage,” he says.