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Kathy Marshack News

Why the 50-50 Rule Isn’t Good Enough for Entrepreneurial Couples to Succeed

Monday, May 25, 2015


the 50-50 Rule isn't good enough for entrepreneurial couplesAccording to the January 2015 Gallup report, “400,000 new businesses are being born annually nationwide, while 470,000 per year are dying. And of the estimated 26 million businesses in America, 20 million of these reported businesses are inactive companies that have no sales, profits, customers or workers. There are only 6 million businesses in the United States with one or more employees. Of those, 3.8 million have four or fewer employees – mom and pop shops owned by people who aren't building a business as much as they are building a life.”

What do successful entrepreneurial couples know about keeping a marriage and a business on track that you should know, too? Whether in business or marriage, problem solving requires gathering information. It just makes common sense to find out what successful entrepreneurial couples know and do that works for them. Out of these strategies, you may find a nugget that applies to you and your spouse.

Do you apply the 100% - 100% Rule?

As a family business coach, over the years, I have had the opportunity to meet many entrepreneurial couples and there’s a pattern among those who have long-term happy marriages interwoven with a prosperous business life. First and foremost they follow the 100% - 100% Rule. That is, each partner considers her or himself 100% responsible for the quality of her or his individual life as well as their joint ventures (i.e., parenting, household duties, managing and promoting a business).

While most couples follow a 50% - 50% Rule, meeting each other half way, by following the 100% - 100% Rule entrepreneurial couples meet each other all of the way. They each put his or her whole self, talents, intuitions, and muscle into the relationships of marriage and business partnership, making each equally responsible for the outcome. Even though for efficiency's sake they may divide up duties along the lines of who is most capable or available, they still consider themselves as responsible as their partner for the success of the goal.

What often get’s in the way of implementing the 100% - 100% Rule? Worrying about ego or pride, which is a waste of precious energy that can better be used in pursuit of your dreams or being creative. It’s better to re-direct your achievement need toward the things you do best at the business or at home. That way not only do you succeed, but your spouse, family, business and community benefits too. What better way to express the 100% - 100% Rule!

If you need an outside arbitrator to settle an ongoing family/business problem and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment. Did you know you can get remote education too? Check out Remote Education for Entrepreneurial Couples.

Read more on my website: Entepreneurial Life.

Latest BBC Interview on Going into Business with Your Husband

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Recently, I was interviewed by Kate Ashford, a BBC journalist, on the topic of entrepreneurial couples. After giving examples of some success stories, she talked about how it’s quite a gamble going into business with your romantic partner, especially if your work ethics are very different. (Read the entire article here: Going into business with your husband.)


Here are twelve things she learned after interviewing various experts including myself.

1. Wait until you’ve been married awhile so you know how you and your spouse will handle ups and downs.

2. Build a good foundation of respect and trust with your spouse first.

3. Acquire good business skills such as money management, accounting, reading a profit-and-loss statement.

4. Treat the business seriously and write a solid business plan, drawing up necessary contracts and legal partnerships. (Writing it down tricks the brain into thinking about what could happen that you should plan for.)

5. Create an exit strategy for business failure, divorce, or physical impairment due to an accident or illness.

6. Outline how children will fit into the mix.

7. Hire a tax professional to set the business structure up properly.

8. Create a strategy where both partners are aware of the money flow.

9. Designate roles according to the strengths and weaknesses of each partner.

10. Give each other alone time.

11. Keep your business and personal lives separate by creating a trigger routine that switches your roles. For example, one couple gives each other a big hug to remind them that they’re a romantic couple from this time until the next working day.

12. Make time for yourselves as a couple, as a family, as individuals.

There will be things that you have to put on hold until the business gets off the ground, and, if you’re not careful, you’ll find that your personal life no longer is working.

Are you an entrepreneurial couple and you find you’ve lost your work/home balance and want to get it back before it’s too late? If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment. Or take advantage of my remote education for Entrepreneurial Couples. Learn more about that here.

Learn more on my website: Entrepreneurial Life and from my book on Entrepreneurial Couples.

5 Tips to Foster Healthy Competition When You Work with Your Spouse

Monday, April 06, 2015


healthy competition when husband and wife work together in a family businessSuccessful entrepreneurs are achievers and highly competitive, otherwise they couldn’t create a successful business venture. Sometimes achievement, motivation and a healthy dose of competitive spirit are all that sustains the entrepreneur during extremely difficult times. Yet, what happens when this competitive nature enters the family business? First of all let’s consider this important question:

What are some signs that you’re in competition with your spouse?

  • Do you feel envious of your spouse, or resentful? You’re experiencing competition.
  • Do you feel smarter than your spouse or the need to have the last word?
  • Do you evaluate the worth of yourself and your partner by how much you each earn?

If you answered “yes” to any of these, you’re in competition. It’s not always easy to admit this, but once the truth comes out you’re in a better position to work with the inevitable consequences. I suggest you resist the urge to be embarrassed by your competitive nature. And certainly you don’t want to suppress it or even deny it. Courageously admit it and acknowledge the problem to your spouse.

Then do what successful entrepreneurial couples do to work with it . . . they encourage it! They do, however, insist on one unchangeable boundary….their relationship is off limits. That is, their love for each other and commitment to their marriage and family life come before business or career needs.

How can you foster competition in your business without compromising family feelings? Here are five suggestions:

  1. Give credit where credit is due.
  2. Build in rewards and incentives into your business for each partner to achieve.
  3. Pay each spouse the money they’re worth. Instead of paying only the founder of the business and undervaluing the other spouse's unpaid help, the supportive spouse should receive payment for what he or she is worth and not a penny less.
  4. Bonuses aren't banked for the common good, but awarded to the spouse who achieved the reward.
  5. Encourage each other to achieve their dreams, to express their strengths, to utilize their talents. If this means besting your partner in a career or business move, it shouldn't be threatening to your spouse, but viewed as a challenge to work toward his or her own excellence.

Worrying about ego or pride is a waste of precious energy that can better be used in pursuit of your dreams or being creative. Would you like a qualified business coach to help you productively harness your competitive spirit? If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment. Or you can take advantage of video education for entrepreneurial couples. That way not only do you succeed, but your spouse, family, business and community benefits as well.

Seven Psychological Traits of Highly Successful Entrepreneurs

Wednesday, April 01, 2015


7 psychological traits of highly successful entrepreneursHas your family embraced the entrepreneurial spirit? Have you blazed your own entrepreneurial trail and grown a business that supports you in a full and satisfying life? 

Congratulations! Not everyone can do that.

I’ve often puzzled over the question: what makes some entrepreneurs and family businesses succeed while others do not? I’ve come up with the following seven psychological traits that seem to define those who thrive. How do you measure up?

1. You spot opportunities that others don’t see. Your ability to do a lot of work is based upon efficiency and vision. Because you already see where you're going and are constantly scanning the environment for improvements, you’re a marvel at being in the right place at the right time.


2. You’re a big picture thinker. You’re a visionary who sees the outcome before the average person. While the details are important in creating the outcome, without the vision, your life can become nothing but maintaining the details of life.


3. You stay ahead of the competition and make things happen. You’re a bundle of energy that few can keep up with. You take quick action and attend to what is immediately necessary to accomplish your dream. You’ve honed efficiency to a fine science. You’re constantly looking for the next opportunity or the next problem to solve.


4. You’re a great leader. Because of your uncanny insight and charisma you motivate those around you. People admire you for your talents and want to share in your good fortune by helping in some small way.

5. You view adversity as a challenge. You look on “failing” as an opportunity to prove what you’re made of. The adversity may not be pleasant, but conquering it is a thrill. In a crisis, you’re the hero. (Caveat: Some survivor entrepreneurs keep creating crises in their lives, often unconsciously, so that they can get the thrill of mastering the crisis. The entrepreneur may be able to handle this excitement but your family and friends may tire quickly of the emotional roller coaster.)


6. You harness the brainpower of others. You learn from people who know. You’re impatient with details, but you know that detail-oriented people help you turn your dreams into reality, so you value them.

7. You give back. You treat your employees, vendors and customers with generosity and gratitude. You know it’s important to take the time to stop and smell the roses with the ones you love.

Is the situation hopeless if you or your spouse doesn’t inherently possess all of these skills? Not at all. A qualified business coach can help you develop these skills and if work with your spouse even better because you can work of each other’s strengths! If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment. If you live elsewhere check out video education as a way to get my advice on how to not just survive but thrive as an entrepreneurial couple.

Sexual Infidelity in the Family Firm – What Can Be Done?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


sexual infidelity in the family firmMargo was dumbfounded. She just discovered that her son Brett was having an affair with one of their employees, while his unsuspecting wife was at home caring for their two children. She knew that Brett was having trouble at home, but she thought with the marriage counseling things were back in order.

Of course Glen, Brett's father had "indulged" in a few flings when he was younger, but Margo was sure Brett knew nothing of this. Brett's actions created a tremendous weight of responsibility for Margo as the matriarch of the family and as co-owner with her husband Glen of the family business. How was she to handle this problem? Who should know about it? Who already knew?

Margo's story, unfortunately, is common. When a family also is part of a larger system such as a family firm, the web of entanglement reaches out not only to other family members, but also to employees, vendors, customers, business advisers, and the myriad other people who are part of the family/business system. They are often aware of the problem but feel helpless to do anything. Some try to ignore it and carry on with work. Others may be so brave as to offer advice. Most worry about their future because they doubt the leadership that’s ignoring or allowing the infidelity. Deception makes people uncomfortable and uncomfortable people make mistakes. As the internal discomfort escalates, and the mistakes escalate, and the stress escalates, the problem can spill out to customers, vendors and others you do business with.

What can be done to save the family and business from the consequences of sexual infidelity?

The solution almost always comes in two parts: First, you must understand the nature of infidelity itself or why it happens at all. Second, you must understand the effects that infidelity has on the entire family/business system.

Infidelity is seldom just about sex. Infidelity is a symptom, just as a sore throat is about a cold coming on. Symptoms tell us there is a problem needing attending to. If you have a sore throat you should rest, drink fluids and take some aspirin. If you press on through, chances are your cold will be twice as bad. Infidelity is like that. There were probably symptoms long before the first act of indiscretion, but no one was looking or listening for it.

The issue here is not to blame or focus narrowly on the indiscretion, but to search for the root or roots of the problems, and then to build an intervention. When you’re in the middle of this kind of emotional uproar, you aren't always capable of thinking clearly on your own. You need the objective guidance of a professional trained in helping families heal from psychological assaults – someone who can gently guide the family members back to some semblance of common sense and solutions that work instead of hiding the problem as Margo and Glen had done years ago. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment before the situation escalates.

Want to know what Margo did next? Find out here.

Learn more on my website: Marriage Counseling.

Is the Stress of Entrepreneurial Life Putting Your Family at Risk for Domestic Abuse?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


stress of entrepreneurial lifestyle putting family at risk for domestic spouse abuse child abuseNo one wants to think it could happen to them. And commendably, many entrepreneurs go into business for themselves because they want to spend more time together as a family. Yet the stress of growing a business can become an unbearable strain on the individual and on the family, and some turn to drugs and alcohol to cope. The greatest majority of child abuse cases are related to alcohol abuse.

NPR recently ran a story that reported, “Almost 680,000 children in the United States were the victims of abuse and neglect in 2013. More than 1,500 of them died.” The Center for Disease Control has a downloadable fact sheet that reports that in the US, in 2012, the Child Protective Services received an estimated 3.4 million referrals of children being abused or neglected.

It takes just one incident of domestic violence to send a marriage and a business reeling.

For example, in my Entrepreneurial Couples book, I talk about Jay and Celia who thought they were untouchable until Jay allowed mounting stress at work to turn to abusing alcohol to unwind. His very successful auto repair business was starting to go sour because he could no longer compete with a national chain. One night when Celia was still at the espresso cart, Joe came home after having had a few drinks and was annoyed that his wife was not there cooking his dinner. Rather than wait until his wife got home, Jay started an argument with his teenage daughter; before he was through, he had pinned her to the wall and was strangling her, until he stopped in horror.

Although Jay was mortified that he got this out of control and immediately apologized to his daughter, he asked her to keep the incident a secret from Celia. Of course, this secret festered and came out two years later when the couple was in marital therapy as part of Jay's alcohol treatment program. Celia was unable to tolerate the betrayal, and the couple separated.

At the point that domestic violence erupts, the lives of entrepreneurs are extremely out of control. Stress from the typical workaholic entrepreneurial lifestyle can create health problems, marital problems, drug abuse problems, and ethical problems. Spouse abuse and child abuse indicate an obvious breakdown in the multiple developing progressions of an individual's life, and are evidence of serious mental and spiritual problems. In fact, to allow the stress of entrepreneurial life to become this extreme means that the couple has gone beyond crisis. Chronic problems that have persisted for years are responsible for this total disregard of human values and dignity.

As a result of these problems, in combination with the weaknesses of character that evolved years earlier from neglectful and abusive upbringings, the crossing of boundaries into domestic violence is more common than you might think. If you recognize yourself or your partner taking even a small step in this direction, you should seek the help of a psychotherapist immediately. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment. If you live elsewhere and want to learn more, check out remote education for entrepreneurial couples that allows us to connect via video or telephone conference.

Read more on my website: Entrepreneurial Life and Alcoholism Recovery.

How to Keep Money Arguments from Tearing Your Family Apart

Friday, December 26, 2014


entrepreneurial couples keep money arguments from tearing your family apartWhen was the last time you examined your attitudes about money? Do you have a plan for its wise money management? Money can be a very powerful influencer on family dynamics. Some think, “We’ll be happy when we make a 6-figure income.” Yet, when they reach that goal, it’s not enough. Even with so much in their bank account, they don’t feel wealthy. Some even feel that their money becomes a trap, because it’s causing strain in their relationships and dysfunction in the family. They just aren’t prepared to handle money and its consequences.

Like everything else in an entrepreneurial relationship, money needs to be discussed and planned for. Becoming aware of your own biases and skewed perceptions about money will help you break through unnecessary roadblocks to handling wealth. Developing a solid plan for the management of your wealth requires a thoughtful dialogue with your partner, or your dreams may be foiled. You have to determine what money means to you. Perhaps you see yourself in the following examples…

Jonathan and Brooke had a prenuptial agreement to protect the assets that Jonathan had acquired before the marriage. Years later, after Brooke had assisted Jonathan in revitalizing the business and expanding it into the international arena, the prenuptial agreement had been forgotten. At least, Brooke thought it had been forgotten—until Jonathan said he wanted to revise it. Brooke was crushed that her husband didn’t trust her and was unwilling to give her credit for her contribution to their success. He maintained that their success was due to his financial investment even though he acknowledged Brookes contributions in other areas.


Connie and Ray have known each other since their teens. Never having even finished high school, the young couple got married and launched a successful wholesale health food business. However, in their early thirties, with three children and a multimillion-dollar business that employs several family members, Connie and Ray have a serious problem with drug addiction. They had never had a model for handling wealth, and they foolishly indulged in drug use and now find that their lives are out of control.

Amy and Evan met in college, got married after graduation, and settled in the suburbs. With two school-aged children, Amy returned to full-time teaching. Evan became a successful freelance technical writer. This couple is earning more income than their parents did at the same age. Lacking any models for handling wealth, Amy is constantly worrying that there will not be enough money. She questions Evan about every penny he spends, especially when he spends money to promote his business. Having never been self-employed herself, and having never seen her parents with any money, Amy is unclear about what level of business expenditure is appropriate.

All three of these couples need to bust some of the myths that they have about money. They need to reexamine what money means to them and what they want it to mean. Money arguments cause many couples to seek psychotherapy because they want to make their marriage work. If you need help uncovering your deep-seated beliefs about money and how these are concealing deeper, hidden issues between family members, please contact my office and schedule an appointment. Remote education is also available for entrepreneurial couples who don’t live near my office.

Read more on my website: Marriage Counseling and in my book Entrepreneurial Couples - Making it Work at Work and at Home.

Do You Have to be “Supermom” to be a Good Parent?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


supermom juggling motherhood a home and a careerWhat’s your definition of a “good mom”? What image comes to mind? Is she the “have it all” “be-it-all” type of supermom? Does she tirelessly manage a spotless house while keeping her kids busy in 10 different, after-school activities so they can get into the best colleges? Does she have an “even if it kills me, they’re going to have it” attitude? And all of this sandwiched in between a career or business as an entrepreneur!

A recent New York Times contributor, Heather Havrilesky, poured out her feelings about the mixed messages that are putting immense pressure on moms to be supermoms, while at the same time receiving degrading messages like, “Oh, you’re just a mom”. She talks about losing her own identity, which I’m sure many moms out there can relate to.

Even though my daughters are both grown up now, I remember the stress involved in trying to do it all. Do you sometimes find yourself wondering…

  • When did the role of motherhood get so out of balance?
  • How did it become the norm that life revolves around everything your child wants rather than the child learning to fit into the family?
  • How is it you become a bad mom if you don’t keep running from the moment you wake up until you fall exhaustedly into bed at night?
  • How are you supposed to smile happily through it all?

On top of that, you’re burdened with an immense sense of guilt every time you take some ‘me time’ for yourself…” This striving for a false perfection sets you up for the frustration of never being able to measure up.

Moms, especially working moms, are people too, not superheroes. You’re going to make little mistakes, even big blunders. The key is to recognize the mistake, accept it, and learn from it. As a psychologist please let me assure you that children are remarkably resilient. If you err, stop it, change it, apologize for it. You will be modeling flexibility and honesty for your child – two important values for them to have.

It’s important to remember that your child is a unique and a separate person from you. He or she isn’t an extension of the parent, but is as different and distinct as their fingerprints. If you take the time to be curious about who your child is, how they think, who they’re becoming, you’ll have the opportunity to make a lifelong friend.

Occasionally, when a problem arises that is beyond your understanding, it’s appropriate to seek the expertise of a family therapist. Sometimes personal problems or relationship problems interfere with productive family life. It is important to recognize these problems, seek professional help and restore family life to a healthy, happy balance. If you like in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Want to create a better work/home balance? If you’re an entrepreneur please check out my book – Entrepreneurial Couples - Making it Work at Work and Home.

Read more on my website: Women Entrepreneurs, Resources for Copreneurs and Am I a Good Parent?

My Recent Radio Interviews on BBC about Entrepreneurial Couples

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


entrepreneurial coupleI was recently interviewed about entrepreneurial couples by Owen Clegg of BBC World Service–Newsday programme, the world’s largest international broadcast radio network. I shared how common it is for couples to work together and how they can bring fresh ideas into their work environment. Within the hour I received another call from the BBC, they wanted another interview on the same subject so I spoke with Nuala McGovern.

Why all the interest in entrepreneurial couples?

An entrepreneurial couple is in the news this month. A Norwegian couple, May-Britt and Edvard Moser just won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine along with their former supervisor, neuroscientist John O’Keefe at University College London. The Moser’s really are a remarkable couple. They have been working together for 30 years, 28 of which they’ve been married, researching how the brain handles navigation. Scientific American recently carried an article about their exciting discoveries.

The Mosers are an excellent example of a couple who harmoniously live, love and work together. They’re raising a family, sharing their scientific passion and love for the outdoors, especially volcanoes. But they don’t do everything together, for example May-Britt runs every other day, while Edvard hikes at weekends.

They’ve found a good balance at work. Edvard focuses on the computing and theory, while May-Britt manages the lab, staff and the experiments. “We have different strengths and we know that by combining them, the results become so much better,” says Edvard.

If you’d like to listen to the interview with Owen Clegg you can access it here. My interview with Nuala McGovern about the stresses and the opportunities that are open to entrepreneurial couples is available here.

Entrepreneurial couples have been part of our society for centuries. There are rewards but there are often painful challenges – especially now when life is so busy and complicated. A family business consultant can facilitate the adjustments into a life where couples can work and live together joyfully and productively. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, please contact my office and schedule an appointment. If you don’t live in the area you may benefit from the personal video education I offer entrepreneurial couples.

Learn more on my website: Couples in Business and Entrepreneurial Life.

Read my book: Entrepreneurial Couples - Making It Work at Work and at Home.

Thinking About Turning Over the Family Business?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


father grooming son for family businessAfter years of building a successful business, many owners want to keep it in the family. That brings up the difficult issue of succession. Perhaps your children and grandchildren have grown up with the business. And as they’ve gained abilities, they’ve become valuable members of the family firm. While your children may be highly skilled in their particular specialty, do they have what it takes to lead your team to excellence in your industry?

The qualities of a leader are many. And to some extent the type of leadership style that works in one setting may not work in another. What is common to all successful leaders however, is the ability to communicate with his or her subordinates, colleagues and superiors. The confident leader communicates this confidence and encourages the best from others.

Leaders of family firms who want the best for their families and their business confront the problem of cultivating leadership openly and honestly. They insist on training the next generation in the development of problem solving skills, communication skills, confrontation skills as well as the skills of the specific product manufactured. They also need what I call “the resilience factor", which embraces the qualities of flexibility, a win-win philosophy, quality over quantity, toughness, and foresight.

There are a variety of strategies for ensuring that the second generation in family firms is prepared. The strategy that fits for you depends upon the business, the parent's skills and personality and the skills and personalities of the children.

The child needs an environment where they must prove themselves capable of leadership in the family business. For some this means leaving the business for awhile and working elsewhere. For others, it means getting an education before returning to the family business. Another child may benefit by working their way up from the "mailroom" with no preferential treatment from the parents. Finally, some children will be better family members and more capable adults if they never return to the family business.

There are two goals in family firms. One is to develop a thriving business. The second is to develop healthy independent adults who can contribute to society.

Keep in mind that the business can be successful without the child and the child can be successful without the business. That is, set your sights on accomplishing both goals independent of each other, and you may be surprised how they come together in the long run.

Often it helps to get an objective view of your family and business. A psychologist is skilled at helping you sort out your choices and get clear on your objectives when making big decisions in life. If you’re ready to gain that kind of clarity in your own life, make an appointment with my Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA office.



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