November 26, 2022

Small Business Advice

Talking to Spouses about Business

Jerry Osteryoung | 1/28/2008

Effective communication is 20% what you know and 80% how you feel about what you know.
— Jim Rohn

I know one entrepreneur and his wife have board meeting in their bed and they talk continuously about their business. They schedule days at home where they can talk about the business without being interrupted. In many ways, the business and the marriage are comingled together and this is what they prefer.

Another entrepreneur just never, ever discusses her business with her spouse as she knows it will upset him. He just cannot handle this type of information and if told negative news just goes ballistic and frequently gets ill from this.

It seems to me that being an entrepreneur requires you to be very careful as to what you tell your spouse about your business. Now, I am certainly, not saying to lie to your spouse, given the inherent risk embedded in the business, as this will eventually kill the relationship. What I am suggesting is that it might be appropriate not to tell your spouse something that will really upset them as some spouses cannot handle risk, rejection or failure.

One entrepreneur whom we are working with was having some serious financial issues. He wanted to tell his wife about the issues but just knew that she could not handle this type of information. Rather than talking to his wife about the issues, this entrepreneur turned to his brother. His brother was willing to listen to both the good and bad about the business.

One of the things that I think is so important in communicating with your spouse about your business is to clearly recognize what you are asking for. If you just want them to listen to you in a non-judgemental way so you can vent, then you need to tell them this. You need to say, I just want you to listen without an opinion so I can get this off of my chest. Of course, sometimes you want your spouse to help you fix the issue or give their opinions to you but you need to tell them that this is what you want them to do. A great idea to tell your spouse at the beginning of a conversation is what you want from them in terms of listening or commenting. This type of communication protocol about your business with your spouse will really help.

Like snowflakes, there are myriad types of relationships. As an entrepreneur you must do the best you can to figure out what types of communications foster this relationship and which do not. As in business, communications are everything and you must think very hard as to what your spouse both needs and can handle in terms of business information.

No go out and make sure that you have a plan as to what information you will share with your spouse.

You can do this!

Jerry Osteryoung is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship in the College of Business at Florida State University. He is also the Director of the Entrepreneurship Program at FSU and Executive Director of the Jim Moran Institute of Global Entrepreneurship. He can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 850-644-3372.

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