Separating Business and Personal

There’s yet another old saying, that goes “never mix business and personal.” While I don’t one hundred percent agree with the statement, there are times when it’s not necessarily in the best interests of your business to mix the two, and that’s what we’ll be discussing today. Under some circumstances, it can actually be a boon to your business. In others, perhaps not so much. The trick lies in telling the difference.

For example, working with your spouse or significant other on a business project carries a number of benefits (but can also carry a number of pitfalls). You have an established relationship. You know each other. So you avoid some of the initial awkwardness that can arise in getting to know your team members. Also, starting up a business together can actually work wonders to bring you even closer together (though that’s a subject for a blog on relationship advice, which is not why we’re here). And then there’s (another) old saying, “two heads are better than one.” However, there’s also the question of what happens to your business should your relationship end. Will you continue on working together? Will you even be able to? These are questions that should be addressed early on in the project so that should the unthinkable happen, your business doesn’t suffer for it.

In that same vein, there’s the idea of beginning a relationship with one of your team members. Again, not necessarily something I disagree with, but the question has to again be asked, what happens when your relationship ends? What if it ends badly? Can you afford to lose a vital team member if things end up not working out? And if things go very badly and you make a snap decision to fire your former significant other, how will that effect your relationship with your other team members? The answer is not in any good way. I will not tell you not to fraternize with co-workers (not that anyone would listen anyway; love, like life, finds a way), but exercise caution, and use a bit of common sense, when doing so.

Mixing business and personal doesn’t necessarily mean a romantic relationship. It could also mean your personal opinions and feelings. The case of Chick-Fil-A in the United States should be well known to most people by now. They were caught funneling profits directly from their business directly into the hands of anti-gay organizations. Personal feelings aside, it’s their money, they can do with it as they please, but when significant percentages of the population are gay or supportive of those that are, funneling funds straight from your business into the hands of organizations built on oppressing that percentage of people is not a good business call. Everyone is entitled to their own thoughts and feelings on any number of subjects (misguided though they may be), but when you publicly identify your company along the lines of your personal feelings, you risk alienating people who don’t share those feelings. It is not good for business. Just sitting here without thinking too hard, I can think of a ton of people I personally know who will not support them for this reason. Do you want that to happen to your business? For a huge company like Chick-Fil-A it’s a drop in the bucket, but for a smaller start-up company like yours? It could be the difference between life and death for your business. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, that is your right as a human being. But keep it out of your business or risk the repercussions.

There are numerous other occasions under which the mingling of business and personal could come up, and in most cases (unlike that last example, which is fairly cut and dry), there’s no right or wrong answer as to whether or not it’s a good idea to mix the two. Exercise caution, use your head, and your path to PIE will remain nice and smooth for it.