Can a Business Partnership Work for Couples?
Although there are limited statistics related to married couples owning businesses together, recent studies indicate that there has been a significant increase in small, family-owned businesses over the past decade. Running a business together provides employment opportunities in a tight labour market, but it also gives couples an opportunity to embrace a more flexible work/life balance.
It’s been estimated that 3 million of the 22 million US small business in 2000 were couple-owned, and that number has likely gone up. In South Africa, this number is lower – but is definitely growing. Richard Mukheibir, CEO of Cash Converters, the largest second hand goods franchise in the world, confirms this, saying they are seeing a growing number of husband/wife partnerships. “We expect this trend to continue with continued pressure in the labour market and as workplace flexibility becomes increasingly important for today’s working adults. At Cash Converters alone we have 16 husband and wife teams which is significant.”
The increase in the number of women in franchising also plays a role in the growth of husband-wife teams. The latest research conducted by Franchize Directions illustrates a significant shift in the increase of women franchisees, increasing from just under 29% in the 2010 survey to almost 34% of franchisees in 2012. Mukheibir says he can see a similar trend in the Cash Converters business, with 34% of all franchisees in South Africa now women. “Women are becoming more entrepreneurial, they’re really strong executers and collaborators and they seem to thrive in a franchising community that breeds openness and mentorship. This kind of performance will ultimately impact the bottom line,” he says.
In fact, new international research from the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), a private independent research institute, revealed that couples enjoyed significant income gains from their joint ventures as well as increased flexibility, making it a sound investment for many people.
A more productive, balanced work-life balance frees up the couple to incorporate personal activities into their day. “The corporate world can stifle an individual’s options for a flexible lifestyle, which explains in part why self-employment is on the rise in South Africa and around the world. Couples who own a business together can arrange to work different shifts to ensure a decision maker is always at the business, and in most cases, your partner would be someone you trust. What one owner lacks in skills, the other can make up for it, which means the business is better equipped from an expertise and skills perspective,” says Mukheibir.
More than two thirds (13.4 million) of South Africa’s current employment is created by small, medium and micro enterprises, proving that successful entrepreneurial business are key to South Africa’s economic growth. “Businesses with a strong partnership at the helm are more likely to succeed,” explains Mukheibir. “A trusted business partnership can show dramatic results in any company, but like any relationship, there are benefits and drawbacks that should be considered by a couple before entering into business together.”
For any business partnership to be successful, it’s important that both partners are equally committed to the business, share the same value set and that they have the same vision for the company. There must be mutual respect for the qualities each partner brings to business and they must perform roles that are suited to their skills set. For couples, it’s important that they are able to shut off and to not let work creep into their personal lives.
Below are some insights from some of the Cash Converters husband/wife teams:
Philip Groesbeek and Bernadette Groesbeek, Karen Park
We’ve had the shop for two years now, and it’s been a comfortable arrangement. We’re both easy going people, so if there’s a problem, we discuss it rationally. We have four kids, and this business gives us a lot more freedom. If we were both bound to day jobs we’d have less time to spend with the family.
Clinton and Laetitia Steel, Selcourt
At work we’re partners in business and at home we’re partners in life. The benefit of being able to resolve and brainstorm after hours is great, however a healthy balance must be maintained. We’ve had the shop for just over a year now and I believe that with common goals and focus, our team is much stronger.
Armand and Vernene Brits, Blackheath (biggest Cash Converters store in the world)
We try to always treat each other with respect. We understand what our strong and weak points are, and where one of us falls short, the other person is there to assist. We each have our own roles. Armand is patient and deals well with customers and Vernene manages all the admin and paper work, as well as Pay Day Advance.
Nathan and Zandile Seotsanyana, Village @ Horizon
Although we have had the shop for just over a year now, we have worked together for four years. It is sometimes difficult to separate our work and our personal life, but we have learned that when we’re at work we must view ourselves as colleagues. We are clear on what our responsibilities are and we’re sure to communicate this clearly with our staff. If we are ever in disagreement about something, we don’t discuss the issue in front of our workers, always presenting a united front to our employees. If we have a disagreement at home that could impact life at work, one of us will stay at home or work outside of the environment to ensure our staff are not impacted and cannot see any weaknesses in our relationship.