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Ask Dave

It's None Of His Business?

Jennifer owns a seasonal small business. Her husband has decided to put the business money into the family budget. She thinks he needs to butt out.

QUESTION: Jennifer in Nashville owns a small seasonal consignment business. Every time she works, she gets about $10,000. Her money goes into a bank account to cover vacations or other miscellaneous expenses. Her husband has decided to put the business money into the family budget. She thinks he needs to butt out. Dave thinks his interference is a bit weird.

ANSWER: I think he might be wrong about every suggestion that I’ve heard him make so far, as far as the pricing changes or the dinner with the volunteers or the equipment that you don’t need.

Let’s back up about five steps. Number one, you own a business together that you run. There’s the difference. You run it. He doesn’t run it. He wants to get involved in the operation of the business, and you don’t want him there because you don’t agree with that. He does have a right to say what happens with the family business.

My wife is a full-time mom. I have a business that has tens of millions of dollars of revenue a year, and she has a say in that, but her say is only to the point that it is wisdom and logical. But she owns this place as much as I own it. I, however, operate it, and she has no clue what we do down here about 98% of the time. It would be unwise for us to allow an absurd suggestion of hers about where we get books printed or who we do business with for our printing. She does not have that right. However, she doesn’t exercise that right. She is an owner, so she could inject herself in it were our relationship weak enough that I would allow her to do that and she would want to do that. She doesn’t want to do it, by the way.

The weird thing about it is while she doesn’t want to inject herself into it that way, sometimes she’ll smell something going on around here and question it. That’s a bit uncomfortable for me, but she’s often right. She would lose her right to do that were she constantly nitpicking us, because then her wisdom wouldn’t be respected. She needs to be an owner who looks at the business and makes occasional comments—almost like a board of directors, but not the CEO or the management team.

He’s not the CEO, and he’s not the management team. He’s more like a board of directors, which can make some general suggestions. His lack of expertise and wanting to interfere feels very weird here. I think you’re right to resist that, but I think you’re wrong to say, “It’s none of his business.” I think you also need to develop a relationship with your board of directors that if your board of directors questions you, you need to give pause and ask yourself if you’re really out of whack. I want your husband to make suggestions that have wisdom associated with them and not a spirit of control. Then you need to be respectful of that input but not allow him to control and bring toxicity to the whole business operation.