The Entrepreneur's Wife

Monday, June 12, 2006

Should you help?

A lot of entrepreneurs are lucky enough to have talented and skilled spouses. Maybe you're an accountant, or lawyer, or web designer. Whatever your skills, you can probably lend a hand to your entrepreneur. Here are a few things to consider before you do:

Can You Do What They're Asking?

Can actually do what your entrepreneur wants you to do? Maybe they're setting up a pet store and want you to feed all the pets once a day, or put them in cages together. Do you know what parakeets eat? Which snakes can be mixed together? Do you even want to get near a snake? More subtle problems may occur if you are a lawyer, but you do criminal law, and your partner needs a copyright lawyer. You might think that 'law is law' but you could be doing your partner harm by not quite knowing everything you need to know to help them. Use your own judgement to know if you can really do the job as well as an outside professional.

To Charge or Not to Charge

It may seem strange to charge your husband or wife for something, but bear in mind that the company is not just your husband or wife- it's a business like any other, albeit a fledgling business. Think about the following before you jump in:

i) How much of your time will it take? Does your entrepreneur want one-off help? Setting something up, or creating a company logo, for example? If so, you can probably consider helping them for free, especially if it's easy for you to do. If there are costs involved, perhaps charge them just for your materials. If the task will take you a while and you're rather be compensated for your work, say so. If your entrepreneur has set up the company formally, and funded it with external funds, then act like any other professional would: Invoice the company, so that the entrepreneur can have a record of this, and enter you into their accounts, and pay you along with other suppliers and vendors.

If performing the task means that you have to use things provided by your employer, be sure to get the OK from your employer first! They'll probably be OK with a few sheets of missing paper, or you using the computer at your desk, but don't start swiping lumber from the company's lumber yard to build your hubby's home office, or hijack the company printing press to print your wife's fliers if you work at a newspaper.

ii) Can the company pay you now, or ever? It might be the case that your entrepreneur's company has no money to pay you now, but they expect that it will be able to pay you in 6 months' time. There's nothing wrong with billing an amount that you both agree, and then waiting for it to be paid once the money starts flowing. You're not exactly a creditor who's going to call in Dog the Bounty Hunter if they don't pay on time. On the flipside, bear in mind whether your entrepreneur is planning to try to get external funding before they start selling anything. It won't be easy for them to do this, if the company looks like it owes you tens of thousands of dollars. By the same token, if you do plan to bill, bill as you do the work. I once fell into the trap of working for months for my entrepreneur without a record of being due anything, so when the company finally found external funding, they couldn't pay me anything- it really stank! So decide up front what's best for both of you and the company. If you want to really do things properly, write a contract, purchase order or employment agreement between you and the company. It will be good practice for when your entrepreneur needs to use one when they start hiring other people.

Can You Work With Your Spouse (And Can They Work With You)?

Lastly, consider whether you can work well with your spouse. It might be that you're great together as a couple, but fight like cats and dogs when trying to work together. Or find yourselves still talking business in bed. If this is the case, it's probably better overall if you just have your entrepreneur hire someone else to do the work they're asking of you. It's not worth risking your marriage to do whatever tasks they're asking.

If you've got other tips or questions for people considering this situation, post them in the comments.


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