Back in the 1990’s and early 2000’s I owned and operated several companies with my husband. It was 23 years of up, down, and sideways. We had a good, long run but made a boatload of mistakes along the way. One of our biggest mistakes as I look back was in not grasping the fact that we approached ownership completely different. If you’ve read my book, you know the story, so I won’t get into the details here. What I do want to expound upon are the nuances between male and female ownership styles, especially when a couple teams up.
My approach to managing people and getting things done always started with clear, regular communication. Most women are good at this and it’s generally our foot forward, whether to tackle a conflict or celebrate an achievement. It was my tendency to gather the staff to think through the best approach or get their feedback when making a big decision. It was also my tendency to protect them and go out of my way to make sure they were happy working for us; sometimes to a fault. I had a really hard time terminating employees when their performance didn’t make the grade. They got too many second chances as I look back and I realized it was because they were part of our ‘family’. I also lacked self-confidence and tended to second guess myself in those days. My husband was the introverted technician, and I was the extroverted business development and operations manager, so the buck usually stopped with me.
Like other women business owners, I had a full plate. On the rare occasion I found myself with extra time, I’d feel guilty like I should be doing something productive. Sound familiar, ladies? When the time came for us to sell our business, I remember having a feeling of dread and fear, thinking to myself “what in the world will I do without my business, and who could possibly take care of my employees better than me?” For me, it wasn’t just a source of income, it was a family. A big difference between men and women owners, is for men, the business provides their sense of relevancy. For women it appeals to their sense of responsibility.
As I consult for owners of family business, where husband and wife co-own and operate their companies, I witness many of the same issues I experienced myself. Women approach ownership differently; they are more thoughtful, intuitive, and curious. The curiosity trait can be extremely helpful in troubleshooting a problem and finding creative ways to solve it. Women tend to put others before themselves, which can be a blessing and a curse. Having boundaries is a good thing.
The moral of the story? Whether you’re married to your business partner or running solo, understand that women will approach ownership differently than men, and awareness of that can be a game changer when these nuances apply to your situation, especially when it comes time to sell.
Thanks for reading, and as always, please feel free to reach out.