Planning, Startups, Stories


Tim Berry on business planning, starting and growing your business, and having a life in the meantime.

3 Things Never to Tell an Entrepreneur About her/his Spouse 6

I just read 7 Things Never to Tell Your Spouse About Business Finances, posted by Barry Molz on Amex OPEN forum. I like Barry and I like his work.  I’ve been on his podcast before and it was great. But his tone of voice in this post makes me uncomfortable. Dont tell your spouse

If you’re curious, compare Barry’s tone in that post to mine in some of my (somewhat confessional) posts on me and my wife and entrepreneurship: My biggest startup boost, for example; or this true story on relationships vs. new business. And yes, my wife and I have been married 44 years, in a relationship that has survived years of scraping to support a startup, and sending five kids through college; so maybe I maybe I know something about this.

It’s not that Barry doesn’t offer some good advice within his post. He does. For example, if you’re dealing with cash flow problems, Barry advises:

Don’t give your spouse a daily cash report, since it’s always changing. Instead say, “Money will be tight for the rest of the year.” You will be right most of the time.

But there is no excuse for the multiple references to the spouse as “she” in that post. I know Barry and he knows better. This is nasty stereotyping. The whole “don’t worry your pretty head” motif is 1.) offensive and 2.) obsolete. Ironically, all of Barry’s advice here has nothing to do with gender so there is no reason whatsoever to make the spouse female. Making the advice gender specific dilutes it.

And secondly, regardless of gender, keeping a spouse in the dark about serious business issues is a really bad idea. Specifically, Barry’s suggestion about what to tell a spouse when a major investor pulls out …

Don’t say anything, and work privately to learn to project your cash flow better so you can survive the bumps in the road.

… is really bad advice. What a terrible thing to suggest. First of all, that idea makes for an incredibly lonely entrepreneur. Nobody normal can help fretting over that kind of situation. Not to share it with the most important person in your life, who is by definition a person who is going to share the consequences if you go under is horrendously bad advice.

And here’s another piece of really bad (well, maybe just insulting) advice on what to say when you have a buyer for the company:

If you do tell her about any pending deals, make sure she understands that nothing is set in stone until the money is in the bank. Also, don’t give her the dollar details; when the deal closes and the money is in the bank you can say: “Honey, what can we do with an extra $100 million?

The first part of that advice is not bad, but condescending, and unfortunately also gender specific. The second part is insulting.

My apologies to Barry for a bit of a rant, but I’m the father of four daughters and this stuff really gets my goat.

I’ve discussed this topic in other posts and in my opinion it’s best to be open and honest with your partner. In fact, being candid has immense benefits. Here’s an extract from one of my previous posts that illustrates how essential my partner has been in helping me to succeed:

[This was the] biggest boost to starting a business: My wife said “go for it; you can do it.” And she meant it. At several key points along the way, she made it clear that we would take the risk together. There was never the threat of “I told you so, why did you leave a good job, you idiot!” What she said was “if you fail, we’ll fail together, and then we’ll figure it out. We’ll be okay.”

  • Tosin Olapo

    Two is better than one says the Word of God. Working it out together and knowing that your spouse supports you gives the comfort that you can move on and take the risk. Your advise in this write up coming from your personal experince is a gem. thanks a lot

  • http://batman-news.com Mercym

    My partner and i share everything, we are best friends. you need to take your partner as your closest friend, even better than a best friend. A partner is the only person who will be by your side even when all fails.

  • Barry Moltz

    My point was that a daily update made me uncomfortable. Alot happens in a week and no need to go through all the ups and downs daily. In the long term, your spouse needs to know what is going on…if I updated my spouse every day, she would get whiplash!

  • Barry Moltz

    Thanks for the discussion and point of view!

  • missie stewart

    While I agree that information should not be kept under wraps, if your spouse agrees to allow you the ability to start a business, with the full knowledge of the undertaking (less family time, financial strain if not prepared, and the added stress) then nothing should be kept. A partner can provide a different view of an issue that might not be visible at the time to the owner of the business. Sometimes that is all that is needed to find a solution.

  • http://smallbusinesstalent.com/ Stephen Lahey

    As an entrepreneur, I’ve never kept my wife in the dark about anything. I totally agree with your wise perspective on this.