Jul 6, 2022

Starting A Business with Your Spouse? Uh….

The Wall Street Journal and this columnist offer equally vacuous tips

By Ed Goldman

C-Suite Strategies,” a special section of the Wall Street Journal—a fine, fine newspaper and, on occasion, a humorist’s most reliable source—ran an article recently with the headline “The Pros and Cons of Starting a Business with Your Spouse.”

While I never had that exact experience, I do feel qualified to join the discussion. Many years ago my spouse joined the marketing consultancy I’d started a decade earlier (she came in as a full partner, natch). And in the seven years we worked together, revenues grew by a third and were solid enough to suffer no slackening when she stopped to become a full-time artist.

Edgy Cartoon

‘Til debt us do part

To recap, my experience at working with a spouse was beyond positive. Not everyone’s will be or currently is.

Here, then, are some considerations the Journal brings up, followed by some observations of my own. Feel free to share this with your business-partner/spouse or your business-partner/significant other—or, more expansively, your ex-spouse or formerly significant other.

Finally, if you’re no longer a couple but remain business partners, I take off my hat to you. Just as I would at a funeral. If I ever wore a hat.

1. The WSJ suggests, for example, that “there are definitely dangers with having everything—and everyone—important at work and at home woven together.” This is followed by the subhead “Too much togetherness.”

Let’s be clear about this right from the start: If your marriage includes weaving yourself and your partner together, perhaps you shouldn’t be running an online crafts store and should rebrand your business as a sex therapy consulting firm. With a re-sale license, this will allow you two to enjoy serious discounts on needles, threads, oils (both essential and just whimsical) and instruction manuals. I imagine it would allow you to at long last write off your bedroom as an office without raising a red flag for the IRS. But do check with your tax adviser. If he or she is also a customer, just make an anonymous call to the U.S. Treasury’s answer desk. To ensure anonymity, use a dinner guest’s phone while he or she is in your bathroom.

2. The Journal warns, “Having a couple committed to a business…can at times make things less financially stable if all of the family’s eggs are in one basket.” A sentence or two later, the article advises, “It helps to have one stable job or side gig in the relationship while the business is getting up and running.”

Okay, let’s take off the bubblewrap. How did this couple go from starting what I presumed was an urban company to a foray into the ag sector? Why are we talking about eggs all of a sudden? And taking care of horses (the reference to holding a “stable job”)? The trouble with most new businesses, in my mind, is a lack of focus. (Note to couples: a “wandering eye” is not the same thing as a “lack of focus,” though certainly, neither will contribute to your success.)

I also found it odd that one half of a couple starting a business together was being advised to go out and get a job. This is a discombobulating conundrum to say the least, but with big words.

So perhaps it isn’t surprising that the story’s penultimate paragraph contains this gem: “What’s more, business survival can fall prey to divorce—something other companies generally don’t have to worry about.”

Looking for a Great Gift?

I’m guessing this means the writer never worked for a company when the owners were hurdling toward Splitsville. Employees’ loyalties suddenly morph into a round of meth-inspired musical chairs or speed dating on cocaine as they struggle to determine whom to side with—and about whom to say, “You know, I never really liked [one of the partners] and frankly, I don’t know how you endured it all these years. Had you just said the word, I’d have murdered [him or her] or at the very least, issued a stern memo. Yes, I can get that steamed when I see a daily injustice being done to someone I admire as much as you.”

Nightmare scenario: “Actually,” says the partner you’re pandering to, “we’re getting back together. I thought you’d heard.

Suggested exit-prevention strategy: “I’m sorry, did you think I was serious about any of that? I guess I didn’t tell you I enrolled in an acting class at night school. That was my first improv! Notes?” 

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).

Yes, Virginia

A Weekly Blog by Virginia Varela

President, Golden Pacific Bank, a Division of SoFi Bank, Inc.

photo by Phoebe Verkouw


Congratulations to Dr. William Cordeiro as he celebrates his retirement as Dean of the College of Business at California State University Sacramento. Thank you for your service and commitment to exceptional academics, improving the lives of the students and elevating our business community.

Dr. Cordeiro has achieved numerous accomplishments over the years that have greatly improved and transformed the business graduate programs.

For the past five years I, along with several other local business professionals, have proudly served on the College of Business Advisory Committee to help steer and direct students toward a focus that will provide practical technical business skills and services to add to our local business market.

I had the honor of interviewing candidates for the Dean position and Dr. Cordeiro stood out with his intellectual yet practical command of excellence in business applications. He has certainly exceeded every one of our expectations during the past challenging period.

The College of Business at California State University Sacramento is an absolute treasure of higher education. Its mission is to “develop engaged, responsible and inclusive leaders who enrich our communities.” It’s continuously improving and upgrading its services. For example, earlier this year it launched a new accelerated degree program for a Master of Science in finance.

The College of Business also offers other graduate level business degrees including an MBA, and MBA for executives, Master of Science in accountancy, Master of Science in business analytics, and an International MBA.

We will miss The Good Doctor tremendously. He created his own legacy of academic excellence.

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