By Melinda Collins
To love and to cherish, ‘til death do us part – it’s a nice sentiment. But marriage, both matrimonial and commercial, takes time, effort and good old fashioned hard work.
Taking the boardroom to the bedroom can shake the foundations of even the strongest unions. Get it right however, and the combo can pay off for the company and perhaps the marriage.
Married and working together for 16 years, William de Ora and Louise Woodbury have outlined systems and philosophies to make the “marriage” work – personally and professionally – in their latest book ‘The Invisible Partnership – Work with your spouse without it ending in divorce’.
“Why does combining marriage and business seem to require such heroic effort? The main reason is that life partners who work together inevitably blend their deepest, most intimate relationship into the world of business,” the pair explain.
“If there is conflict at the office, those same problems will follow them home! And if there is discord at home, those difficulties will affect them at the office.”
Their top 10 tips for a personal-professional partnership:
• Find a business you are both passionate about
• Set aside business-free time – nothing kills romance like a financial meeting in the bedroom
• Communicate – working together requires honesty and openness
• Discover individual strengths and weaknesses – helping define riles and work independently
• Remain objective – hold each other to the same level of accountability you would any other co-worker
• Don’t make it a competition
• Don’t fight in public – this can alienate your team
• Have separate interests outside of work
• Keep things in perspective – your relationship is more important than a business decision
• Clear the air – a good argument is sometimes the best remedy and prevents “festering”.
While nobody enters marriage planning to divorce, we know from the world of celebrity and statistics, that it’s not a perfect world, we all make the occassional rash decision and it’s always prudent to plan for the worst.
Barrister and owner of approachablelawyer.com, Michael Smyth says when one marital partner goes into business as a sole trader and the other starts assisting within that business, get incorporated and form a company.
“If you’re not incorporated you run the risk of being deemed a partnership – under a partnership, both parties are equally liable for the business’ liabilities.”
Too many chiefs and not enough Indians doesn’t work, particularly in the business arena. “I would advise that just one person is the company director. Whilst companies have limited liability, directors do have certain obligations under the Companies Act. In some circumstances company directors can become liable for debts of the company.
“If just one person maintains the director title – just one is liable if something goes wrong.”
Top of the list Smyth says, is that if you are both shareholders, get it in writing. “Get a shareholders agreement; make provisions for what would happen to the shares if either party wishes to sell, whether the other party could purchase those shares and the method of valuation of those shares in the event that the business or marital relationship doesn’t work out – this is equally applicable for family businesses.
“Family businesses can be the most complicated situations because of the emotions involved, making it even more important to have a shareholder agreement. This determines who does what, what investment each person has, what happens if someone wants out – if you don’t have one, it can get very messy.”
Battle in the boardroom
She’s a multi millionaire telecommunications entrepreneur, mum and charity queen known equally for her platinum locks as her illustrious career – but even Annette Presley isn’t immune to the perils of matrimonial mayhem.
Presley and her ex-husband Malcolm Dick are reported to have met in the early 1990s at a golf function. In 1992 moved across the Tasman where they went into business, establishing Call Australia, a toll call company that, at its peak, raked in more than $100 million a year. The sold the company for a reported $60 million and returned to New Zealand in 1997 to set up CallPlus, a company which offers voice and data service.
The impeccably dressed bleach blonde, known for her love of red sports cars and Versace suits, became the public face of Slingshot, the company’s residential subsidiary, which took on the telco market with its cheap internet service.
Then in 2006 the marriage collapsed and the shock announcement was made by Callplus, still jointly owned by Dick, that Presley was standing down as the chief executive of Slingshot.
It was, apparently, news to Presley, who was holidaying aboard a 68 foot (21 metre) yacht Seatoy in Fiji at the time.
The battle in the boardroom is still raging four years on – this time over 2Talk, a venture established by Dick and Callplus chief executive Martin Wylie in direct competition with Callplus, directly following the divorce.
What a wonderful ‘World’
World was established in Auckland in 1989 by Denise L’Estrange-Corbet and Francis Hooper. Fuelled by their energy and passion, their vision and work has seen their label develop from a cupboard at the back of an arcade, to one of the leading fashion houses in New Zealand.
They’ve written the book, collected the Queen’s Birthday honours, done the outrageously clever fashion shows and parties, accepted the museum retrospective – split up and survived.
World has opened nine stores in New Zealand and sells its clothes in Australia, Europe, the US and Asia. It was the first Kiwi label to show at Australian Fashion Week and London Fashion Week.
But if you trawl the internet for stories about L’Estrange-Corbet and and Hooper’s messy split after 19 years, one child and a business together – you won’t find it. Believe me, I tried.
Believed to have split mid-2008, the pair announced the separation would not affect the company or the brand – it hasn’t. It’s hard just to establish an exact time of the split, the separation so amicable and, consequently, the media coverage so sparse.
Furthermore, the pair were understood to have continued to cohabitate with their daughter Pebbles for some time after the split. And of course, the business just keeps going from strength to strength – proving it can be done.