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Clear boundaries key to family business

Clear boundaries key to family business

From Canberra Times article:

There are potential pitfalls to running a business with your spouse, Cheryl Keeley says, but this form of joint venture does offer a flexibility and ease of communication that other business partnerships do not.

Mrs Keeley and husband John of Narrabundah Newsagency were busy selling tickets for the $70 million Oz Lotto jackpot yesterday. But after owning the business for more than 28 years, they have sold it and will hand it over to new owners after this week.

Mrs Keeley said she and John met as workmates at a bank at Albury 35 years ago and moved to Canberra when they decided they wanted to buy a newsagency.

They have since maintained a harmonious relationship by drawing boundaries around the domains of work and home.

”I think you have to separate your business and personal lives to a degree – we’d have disagreements but you have to leave that at work,” Mrs Keeley says.

Mrs Keeley says being spouses as well as business partners meant if either one wanted to step out of the shop for a while during the day that was acceptable. Being life partners made it easy to talk to each other and be understood.

But she admits there is a danger of seeing too much of each other. The pair ensured they both spent time with their own friends to provide a sense of balance.

”I make sure I’ve got a good group of girlfriends, so I go out to dinner with them or go away to Sydney a couple of times a year,” she says.

Business adviser Greg Chapman agrees that keeping work and home separate is important for husband-and-wife business partners.

Dr Chapman, who will be at Smiths Alternative Bookshop in Civic today to launch his book Married to the Business, says one of the great strengths of spouses running a business together is the level of trust they bring to a work relationship.

But there is a danger that trust could lead to an unhealthy level of informality, which could damage the business.

”Some of the disciplines that should be there in a business may not be there, and business is all about disciplines, doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right way,” he says.

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