Mark Robert Halper Photography

The holiday season has passed, reminding us yet again of just how wonderful, and imperfect, our families are. So it seems appropriate to talk about spouses working together. Much of this applies to other family members in your business as well, and next month I’ll talk about how to successfully grow the second generation in your business.

The remodeling industry is full of companies where both spouses work side-by-side. That partnership can be a great asset. Conversely, it can put the marriage in jeopardy.

Ground Rules

Eight tips to help get you on the right footing:

1. Settle the business hierarchy. Are you partners or is it an owner/employee relationship? This must be an up-front conversation. Is your spouse working because he is passionate about the business or working simply to help you? Once you’ve decided where you stand with each other, clearly communicate it to your staff.

2. Clarify whether your marriage is more important than the business. If it is, that may mean that you can’t work out a healthy business relationship and one of you will need to work elsewhere to protect the marriage.

3. Leave family outside the business door. The shouting matches or carping that you do at home are not appropriate at work. Make professional behavior the model for you and your staff.

4. Leave business outside the family door. Create sacrosanct ground rules as to whether the business can be discussed at home and under what circumstances.

5. Work for common goals. Don’t be competitive. Agreement on shared goals will help you ride out smaller disputes.

6. Create separate turf. If you each manage your own part of the business, you’re less likely to clash. When in doubt, defer to whoever’s in charge there.

7. Be sure both of you are paid at least market rate for the job you do. Establishing that equity settles a lot of potential grievances before they develop.

8. Meet formally. If you’re partners, create a weekly partners’ meeting with a standing agenda to which any special items can be added. If you and your spouse have an owner/employee relationship, meet in a way appropriate for manager and employee.

Not Mom and Pop

A pet peeve I have is the expression “Mom-and-Pop business.” It’s demeaning, so let’s ban it. Two married people working with a shared vision toward common goals in a professional manner is a superb business asset. We should all be so lucky.

—Linda Case is founder of Remodelers Advantage. 301.490.5620;

Read more Linda Case columns here.