Tips for a Successful Professional Relationship with Your Spouse

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For better or for worse, there are many reasons couples choose to start a business together. For some, starting a family business with a spouse is like going into business with your best friend. For others, owning a franchise or dealership provides the opportunity for couples to be their own bosses and the chance to control their own professional destinies.

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One of the biggest challenges to starting a business was learning to be patient with John in the beginning stages of owning our Badcock store

    Furniture retailer W.S. Badcock Corporation thrives on the married entrepreneurs who own more than 100 of the 300 plus Badcock &more retail stores throughout the Southeast. More than 75% of their stores are individually owned through a unique system called a dealership, which is similar to a franchise, but offers quicker start-up at lower costs because they don't have a franchise fee and they consign their furniture to their dealers. Badcock is built on a Southern company and family business philosophy, and more often than not, Badcock dealers incorporate spouses, children and parents into the business.

A franchise or dealership is particularly well-suited for entrepreneurial couples who are just starting out. A franchise or dealership often brings less risk than starting a business from the ground up. Couples wishing to purchase a franchise or dealership have the support and guidance of the parent company, which often includes increased brand awareness as well as training, advertising and access to research conducted by the parent company.

Although starting a business has its inherent risks, a venture taken with a spouse brings with it a new dimension of business and interpersonal risk, said Badcock dealers John and Bessie Whiteside of Clayton, Ga. They have owned their Badcock dealership for two years and have recently purchased an additional store in a neighboring town.

The Whitesides had been married for four years when they decided to start a business and opened their first Badcock store. They concurred that patience was the most important attribute in owning a business with a spouse.

"One of the biggest challenges to starting a business was learning to be patient with John in the beginning stages of owning our Badcock store," says Whiteside. "We recognize and value what each person brings to the business and know to treat each other with respect--just as we would a colleague in any office environment."

Deanna Mullis and her husband Jesse also acknowledge that starting a business with your spouse can be difficult. But, their 42-year marriage and 35 years as owners of Badcock furniture dealerships have proven successful.

"We both have pretty easygoing personalities, so we never really get on each other's nerves," said Mullis of her husband. "I think that's one of the reasons we've been able to work with one another for so long."

The Mullises have owned and operated several Badcock furniture dealerships since their first in 1973 in Mayo, Fla. They purchased their current Lake City, Fla., store in 1980.

Convenience is another benefit of working with your spouse, Jesse Mullis said. No need to coordinate vacation schedules, family obligations and conflicting work schedules--you are your own bosses.

"Whenever Deanna or I need some time away from the store, we can step right into each other's role very easily," he said. "It's very convenient for both of us, although we really do miss each other when one of us is absent."

Here are some tips that can make working with your spouse a happy union both in and out of the office.

Identify each other's strengths and weaknesses. When planning the organizational structure of your family business, make sure to clearly define each other's role within the business.

"Before we opened our store, John and I considered what role each of us would play," said Whiteside. "I'm better at dealing with people, so I handle the sales side of the business, while John is great with numbers, so he handles taxes, billing, etc."

If you are better at playing with numbers, spreadsheets and accounting software and your spouse is more interested in communicating with customers and employees and promoting the business within the community, then make sure to assign roles within the company that take advantage of those strengths.

Stay patient. Working with your spouse may require a great deal of patience, especially if you are both new to owning your own business.

"I have a tendency to be a little impatient at times," said Whiteside, "so I have to be cautious about how I react at work. We're both new to owning our own business, and I have to remember that John will not always have all the answers."

Treat your spouse with respect, just as you would any other coworker.

Don't argue in front of the employees. Arguments conducted between spouses in the home, while unpleasant, are not inappropriate because there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. Arguments between spouses in the office are inappropriate and even more unpleasant for any hapless customer, employee or coworker that happens to be in the vicinity.

"If Jesse and I have a problem we need to discuss, we keep it to ourselves until we can discuss it in private," said Mullis. "Our employees look to us as the pillars of the business. If they see us argue, that may undermine their confidence in us and in the business."

Make time for each other. Make time to share a common interest, such as walking the dog in the park or playing tennis--something that does not involve the business. Making time for each other could also mean planning time apart. Vacations together can also be a very important way to reconnect with your spouse outside the office.

"No matter what is going on in our lives, John and I make time for two vacations a year," said Whiteside. "We also schedule our days off together. It is such a blessing to be able to spend time together outside of our hectic work environment."

Keeping the marriage and business successful will be challenging, but well worth the effort. A successful family business is something that can be passed down from generation to generation. By heeding a few simple words of advice, you and your spouse can ensure that the blood, sweat and tears that are invested in starting your business can result in a long-lasting family business for you and generations to come.

About W.S. Badcock Corporation

Badcock has more than 300 locations throughout the Southeast and is headquartered in Mulberry, Fla., where the company was established in 1904. More than 75% of Badcock's stores are dealer owned and operated. Dealerships are similar to franchises in that they are individually owned and operated, but require less capital (dealers do not pay franchise fees or monthly royalties) and allow for quicker start-up than a traditional franchise. Badcock provides all stores with total inventory at no cost to the dealer and all account financing through the parent company. For inquiries about the company or for dealer opportunities, please go to or call 1-800-BADCOCK.

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