Magazine article Management Today

Sleeping Partners

Magazine article Management Today

Sleeping Partners

Article excerpt

Relationships that succeed at home rarely transfer to the workplace, but there are a growing number of couples who work and live together. How do they manage it?

'I think I'll drive to work today, Mrs Jones,' says the lantern-jawed executive, throwing off his crisp white bedsheet. Then, leaving his perfectly tousled wife to doze in bed, he sweeps purposefully out of his gravel drive. After an exhilarating drive 'through country roads, he reaches an unaccountably deserted new town where the architects had a weakness for mirrored glass. In less than 30 beautifully art-directed seconds, he arrives at his destination. The front gates look strangely familiar. He opens his office door to reveal an elegant colleague, sporting efficient spectacles and hair in a bun. 'Good morning, Mr Jones,' says his wife.

This, of course, is a ludicrous advertising idyll brought to you courtesy of Nissan. The glamorous husband-and-wife business team harmoniously living and working in a spruced-up country house that could have come straight out of Wallpaper magazine, their personal and professional commitments dovetailing neatly to form the most perfectly rounded existence. All this and they're still flirting outrageously with each other.

Most couples need a tad more space. For many in long-term relationships, office hours represent a welcome break from their partners, a chance to function as independent entities and to assert their individuality.

In the course of researching this article, a fax outlining its premise inadvertently found its way to a scientific research company. The woman who phoned to let me know its whereabouts didn't hold back: 'If I had to work with my husband,' she said, 'there's no doubt I'd take a meat cleaver to him.'

So clearly it wouldn't work for everyone but, as the trend towards self-employment increases, it would seem that - meat cleaver or no meat cleaver - more and more couples are taking the plunge and going into business together. 'Over the past five years, more than a quarter of all the people we've advised after redundancy have been interested in the idea of self-employment,' says Frances Cook, managing director of Sanders and Sidney, a leading outplacement and career management consultancy. 'Some 14% or 15% of these people go ahead and start their own businesses and, in many cases, demand some form of practical support from their partners.'

Her major piece of advice for couples considering this option is to ensure their skills are compatible. 'It's the same advice I'd give anyone going into business together,' she says. 'Your skills base should be different but complementary and you should respect what the other person contributes, otherwise there will be conflict.'

Although there are several high-profile exceptions, it generally tends to be men who initiate such ventures, persuading their partners to join them once the business is up and running. Former chartered accountant. Tony de Rivaz is a typical example. He took voluntary redundancy in 1995 and set about designing an electronic building block set for children. Logiblocs were launched at Harrods Toy Kingdom in November 1996 and, after selling into more than 2,500 primary schools in the UK, are also proving a rip-roaring success with children in France and the US. 'I thought it was a bit of a madcap scheme at first,' his wife Ros admits. 'But I quickly realised that Tony needed assistance.'

Logistically, it made sense. With the youngest of their four children nearing school age, Ros felt the urge to get back to work, but picking up where she had left off in the wine trade would have meant a daily commute into London from St Albans. 'We'd have been paying such a lot out on travel and childcare that it would have defeated the object,' she says. 'Working from home with Tony offers me far more flexibility.' On a day-to-day basis, Ros takes responsibility for customer service, as well as dealing with the Logibloc Club and company public relations. …

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