Let me jump on that grenade…

If you haven’t yet learnt from your mistakes, maybe you can learn from mine. POLLYANNA LENKIC

Pollyanna Lenkic

By Pollyanna Lenkic

I was pondering my blog last night thinking about what I would write about today. Have I exhausted my topic of “mistakes that I made the 1st time around”?

Often they do distil down into similar themes. Maybe it’s time to move into easier terrain. Once I had completed what felt like a very comfortable “get out clause” thought process, a memory came crashing in. Damn!

By now you know that I was running a successful specialist IT recruitment consultancy, what you may not have realised is that my business partner was also my partner, then husband then my ex-husband, over the 10 years that I was involved in our business.

Lots of interesting stuff here! Mostly we managed this very well – truth told, we were probably better at being in business together than being married. 

Still there were challenges to running a business with your spouse, things we did very well and things we did badly. I do think it’s valuable to reflect on the mistakes that you have made and to learn by other people’s mistakes.

The main mistakes that I made being in business with someone that I was involved with were:

Not separating business issues from personal issues
It is so important to design your business relationship with your partner, keep personal issues at home and away from the office, and work issues at the office and away from the home environment.

Staying married for five years too long – denial
Not having the courage to admit when the personal side of the relationship had reached its use-by date. The thought of changing everything in my life with one decision was too overwhelming, so best to ignore it, certainly don’t plan for it, just keep your head in the sand and work harder. Oh and the odd glass of wine helps too!

Not having an independent third party adviser
We very much ran our own side of the business. I was sales, new business and recruitment, my partner back office, IT and finance, with some cross over with client management and business development. A big mistake was not having a better handle on the financial side of the business. Another error was not having an independent trusted third party adviser. I realised that I was running on a belief that said if I did this I would be telling my partner that I did not trust him. I wish I had uncovered that one back then and got rid of it. It certainly didn’t serve me.

Not having an exit strategy planned
Neither of us had an exit strategy planned so when it did all go to hell, mixed with emotion and mistrust – exiting the business was more painful than it needed to be.

What I did well

  • Insisted on organising the legal side of the business partnership prior to agreeing to stay in the business.
  • Got out when I needed to for my sanity, self esteem and what I valued.
  • Focused on individual strengths and what we were good at.

What I would advise the younger me now:

  • Hire a trusted third party to sit on the board, one that oversees the finances and sits in on major decisions to keep everything transparent and professional. Someone who is not linked to your accountant.
  • Have a senior member of your team sit in on major decisions; that way both parties will be more likely to present professional and business opinions as opposed to slipping into personal dynamics.
  • Separate business from your home life.
  • Have an exit strategy agreed if one or both of you want to leave the business for any reason. Have this drawn up by a lawyer, agreed by both parties and signed.
  • Be clear about each others motivators for being in business, do you share the same vision, values and goals? Check in with these motivators as the years roll on; one of you may have changed or re-evaluated what was important to you.
  • Invest in training, especially areas that you are not naturally confident in. For me it would have been the financial side. No need to become an accountant, however it’s very important to be able to understand the company financials.
  • Ensure that you have a trusted business mentor, one that has been there before and knows the pitfalls as well as the joys.

For many couples being in business works very well. For many more, it works while it works then descends into hell.

If you are a couple working together or considering working together, trust each other enough now to invest in a business structure that will support you in the good times and the bad. Getting to crisis before sorting this stuff out, I can assure you, is a strategy that only delivers misery.


Pollyanna Lenkic is the founder of Perspectives Coaching, an Australian based coaching and training company. She is an experienced facilitator, certified coach and a certified practitioner of NLP. In 1990 she co-founded a specialist IT recruitment consultancy in London, which grew to employ 18 people and turnover £11 million ($27 million). This blog is about the mistakes she made and the lessons she learned building a business the first time round and how to do it better second time round. For more information go to www.perspectivescoaching.com.au

For more Second Time Around, click here.



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