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How do I resolve a debilitating conflict/disagreement in my wife and I's business?

kzunkzun subscriber Posts: 1 Member

[My apologies that this is a fairly lengthy post; I am in desperate need of advice.]

This is my first post and I have skimmed the forum here and will definitely be spending quite a bit of time on here, as I am a fairly new business owner who got bit hard by the entrepreneurial bug and want to be self-employed for the rest of my life. 

The Situation
My wife and I are both web developers. I am a backend developer and she a frontend developer. There is a good synergy between us, with complimentary skills. We decided to go into business together and have now been self-employed and have worked from home for the past 3 years.

Our business is going well. We have a handful of good clients and, as to be expected, some shifts happen so it's not 100% consistent, but our daily workload is about 3-4 hours a day each, 4 days a week, give or take, depending on flux and whether some contracts are relatively large and ongoing, or if we get, say, a restaurant client or something that is one-and-done in a single month. Depending on the flux, we usually hit anywhere between $6-11k a month or so.

We charge $60-$100 / hour for our work (some clients are legacy from when we first started out and we charge them the same rate they started with).

The fundamental difference between my wife and I is our perspective on hiring contractors to do the work so we can start expanding.

My Perspective
Unbeknownst to me at the time of venturing off on our own together, I am actually pretty good at sales and would like to focus more on this now than doing the actual hourly development work, along with building our own company website, upkeeping social media, doing webinars, shaking hands and bumping shoulders with prospective clients at business Meetups and socials, etc.

Freeing up my time to build the business and do all of the sales (all me; wife doesn't do sales) will absolutely result in getting new contracts. We can outsource the majority (not all; I'll still need to manage things) of the work to subcontractors.

I know some independent contractors who are great developers, motivated, have an interest in learning, and are reliable that I think we should outsource work to so my efforts can be better focused on being the face of the business (I'm really outgoing, while my wife is more reserved and prefers to be behind the scenes).

The way our pricing structure works is in 20-hour or 40-hour blocks per month. Having contractors working for us who can work even 20 (on the low end) hours a week will result in ~80 billable hours a month, which roughly translates to being able to take on ~2-4 contracts on the high end, and if the contractor works closer to 40 hours, then ~160 hours a month, which could theoretically allow us to take on ~4-8 additional contracts.

Obviously, these are rough, back-of-the-napkin calculations, but seem fairly logical. I understand that there will always be fluctuation.

The way I see it, the client pays $100 an hour, $20 of that hour goes to the contractor, leaving $80 an hour we didn't have to do the grunt work for and translates to profit and capital to build our business further. This, in my opinion, is how capitalism works. This allows us to exponentially expand and grow our business and make far more profit in a quicker and more efficient manner than doing the work all ourselves.

Wife's Perspective
My wife, on the other hand, sees contractors as an unnecessary business expense. She fluctuates between being somewhat open to the idea of me hiring developers on to help us, as long as we set hard limits on the amount of hours they can work, to saying that we are not yet ready to hire on contractors because we aren't yet working a full-time schedule ourselves.

In her view, she doesn't see hiring them as an investment into the scalability of our business, though I have tried to reach common ground on this concept with her many times, but we can't seem to see it the same way. Because of how light our current workload is, she thinks we should keep doing the work ourselves and take on new contracts alone until we have built up enough savings to be able to afford them, are working full-time, have a 5-year business plan in place, etc.

For example, we currently have a client that is a "get it done asap, and however many hours it takes, it takes" type of client (within understandable limits, of course--not taking 3,748 hours without a progress update, obviously). In my view, even if we go over the 40 hours they want a month, it's okay. I know a developer who is ready to join us and start working, but my wife and I keep scuffling about doing so. I see this as "for every hour he works, we pay him $20 of the $100 the client pays us, leaving $80 in profit for us" and she views it as "the client is paying us $4000 a month (which is our money) and the cost to hire him is too expensive if we let him work, say for the sake of simplicity, 10 hours in a week ($200/week) because it's cutting out of our money and we would "only" make $3,200 instead of $4,000 from that client that month because we would have to pay him $800."

She views contractors as an out-of-pocket cost to our current profits and is very hesitant to spend $20 an hour on labor because it would mean we would be making less profit in the short run.

Her view is that we should save up capital and only hire employees/contractors when we're bursting at the seams and can no longer take on new work and "can afford" it. We are currently still learning how to be self-employed and are backed up on our taxes a bit, so her view is that we work our butts off, save a lot of money and gradually pay them off before hiring people.

My view is that, yes, we need to be more responsible (and are now more than we used to be), and budget out our contractor hours (of course), but we could pay off our outstanding debt much faster if we scale the business up and keep the same lifestyle as we currently have until that is paid off.

Other Information
By the time she would be comfortable hiring contractors, I would be so busy with a full work load that I wouldn't have time to train new employees and trying to do sales and build the business on top of that would be very cumbersome. Frankly, both of us became self-employed so we can have the free time to work on our art, and I don't want to be so filled to the brim doing client work, sales, client communication, webinars, social media, and otherwise building the business that I can't do my music and enjoy more free-time than people working full-time.

On top of this, we do a special type of web development that can take a few months to get accustomed to, even for experienced developers. In my view, we should start hiring them to work for us now so that, as they get scaled up in a few months, they can take on a significant work load and I can rock and roll on sales and building our online presence, being the face of the company, having face time with current and potentially new clients, etc.

We can't seem to reach a resolve on this. We had this conversation so many times and it always results in a stalemated argument. I am getting upset that we are still at a very low cruising altitude, and want to take on new clients but would really like to start training someone under me to be able to handle that work sufficiently so I can build the leverage to do this.

Our Different (Conflicting) Views/Mindsets Regarding Money/Wealth
We have fundamentally different attitudes to money and wealth. I grew up in a middle-class home of 40-hour-a-week full-time working parents who were responsible with money but didn't believe in wealth creation. I was more of a "screw the man / screw capitalism / screw money" / "punk" type and didn't give a hoot about actually learning about money and capitalism until I was in my mid-late 20s. I have since then spent a lot of time on personal development and the wealth mindset, reading books such as Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, and have gradually shifted my attitude towards wealth to a "wealth is unlimited / the world is abundant" attitude and I feel like the sky's the limit.

My wife, on the other hand, grew up in a really poor household to the point where she couldn't even afford to buy new underwear or go to the movies without friends footing the bill for her, never went out to eat, on vacation, etc. I feel that her attitude towards money is one of scarcity and fear and that's why her underlying attitude is "save as much as possible and don't spend it recklessly because there isn't enough and there is a limit on how much we have and we shouldn't be spending it on contractors we don't absolutely need to hire." I have tried to get my wife interested in the wealth mindset material but it's basically met with an apathetic shrug and a "cool, babe" with absolutely no interest in really trying to understand it, swiftly going back to her Netflix shows.

I had a developer who I have a good relationship in the works to start taking on work for us. He and I were enthusiastically discussing it for a few days via chat and getting excited, pumped, and stoked about it. When I mentioned to my wife that I was going to start a Skype meeting with him to discuss it, she immediately went to making sure we were going to be limiting his hours and how we shouldn't be taking him on right now in the first place, and basically brought the entire mood down into an argument instead of being excited and enthusiastic about it. I feel like her negative attitude is really holding us back.

It's gotten to the point where my enthusiasm and vision we originally had going into being self-employed is dwindling. She feels like I am rushing things, being irresponsible, and bringing on unnecessary business expenses, and I feel like she is being short-sighted and only focusing on the short-term rather than long-term goals we would both like to achieve.

I feel like our personal attitudes toward wealth in general are very different and that heavy conflict is preventing us from building our business the way we want to and preventing us from trying to rationally discuss this and reach a harmonious conclusion. I love my wife and it's fun to be employed together, but sometimes this fundamental difference in our perspectives causes stress I'd rather not have. It doesn't seem we can reach a resolve as to whether we actually build the company we wanted to do, or remain as a mom-and-pop development team for the unforeseeable future and get into heated arguments every time we try to discuss this.

At the end of the day, we both want to be self-employed, make a good enough living that we can do the things we love to do, and be peaceful. We have the same ultimate goals in mind (or else we wouldn't have ventured out on our own), but have fundamentally different ideas as to how to get there.

How in the world do we resolve this peacefully? I don't want this to come between us and defeat the purpose of wanting to achieve a more abundant, enjoyable life together with lots of free time to work on the things that are really important to us (music and writing).



  • Options
    JaneofalltradesJaneofalltrades subscriber Posts: 6 Member
    @kzun I'm in business with my husband and there are times where we both regret it despite the fact we built and currently building successful businesses. I often found myself taking on most of the work, being more organized and looking for new opportunities to expand and make our lives easier (hiring outside help). My husband is that person who tends to not want to take risks. He is very similar to your wife. This has caused us to lose out on many opportunities. We both want the same thing but go about it differently, as you have mentioned. The issue, many couples have, is not establishing roles in the beginning. Stop operating as a married couple and start operating as business partners. You also need to stop assuming that you can be business partners just because you are married. You figure this out before you agree to working together.

    From day 1 my husband and I conducted business like we conduct our marriage. We assumed that we both were on the same page. NOPE. Business is the complete opposite of Marriage. Screw up in marriage and you can go to counseling. Screw up in business and you can go bankrupt.

    I own my own businesses. I can jump start a business faster than someone can jump start a car. It's something I excel in. I would be in my grave waiting for my husband to jump start our business. It used to aggravate the heck out of me. Not anymore. Why? We are not the same. We both are aiming for the same thing but we are doing in different ways and at different speeds. Which brings me to what my mentor explained to me. There is a difference between a business owner and an entrepreneur. You can be both but not everyone operates as both.

    You, are an entrepreneur. Instead of worrying about your debt and not being able to scale your business, you are looking for ways to fix the issue. You are passionate about what you do and have also educated yourself enough to where you know wealth doesn't come from saving. Wealthy people invest. They don't save. This is why I invested in hiring personal assistants and a small team to help me grown my businesses as well as the businesses I have with my husband.

    Your wife, is a business owner. She definitely wants success as much as you do. Her upbringing has nothing to really do with it as I know many people who were raised in poverty and are now laying on the beach on some random island the average person can't find. However, I will say that maybe deep down there is an underlying fear of losing her current lifestyle and ending up in that place she probably never thought she would escape from growing up. Business owners, at least the ones I personally know, tend to focus more on keeping within a certain budget and doing things the "safe way". Amplify this times 10 when you are married because this doesn't just affect the business but possibly your personal finances as well. Have kids? Make that times 20.

    My husband was not happy when I hired my first assistant. (I'm on my third now) He also wasn't happy when I hired our housekeeper. It was money wasted in his opinion. Why hire people to assist us when we can do it ourselves? Now, he can come home and not worry about taking time he doesn't have and washing dishes, clothes, or really doing anything. He can focus on studying for certs, building courses or networking for his new business. He doesn't have to worry about trying to find important paperwork, taking out the garbage, sending out checks, taking the car for an oil change etc. This was after I made the decision to go ahead and hire these people for myself which allowed him to see how much of difference this made when it came to our business and personal life.

    So, even though your wife may seem like she is holding you both back, don't blame her. She doesn't see things like you do. My suggestion is to keep the business you have together. You each start your own businesses as a back end and front end developer. You will both still be working together under 1 company but operating separately. Not saying you have to keep it this way forever but, like my husband, you sometimes have to prove that your idea is going to be beneficial to the both of you. So when she sees that you now are less stressed, have more time on your hands and making more than you were before by hiring outside help, she will come on board. Prove that it will work.

    My husband and I expanded our business and operate as a team. He focuses on what he excels in and I focus on what I excel in. We have a team full of people that help us operate our businesses.

    FYI- My husband is also in the IT Industry. He is a big fan of subcontracting. You both already have your foot in the door. Subcontracting=Easy way to make money while doing nothing.

    Good Luck!

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