Investor Carl C. Icahn, began his career on Wall Street in 1968--and is now worth an estimated $20 billion dollars. But he didn't get to the top alone. The 77 year-old investor has publicly attributed much of this success to his wife and long-time business associate, Gail Golden.
"My wife watches me like a hawk," he said during an interview at the Delivering Alpha conference hosted by CNBC in New York this week. "At night, she looks over the numbers, and she’s like, 'How come you went down today?'"
His marital commentary shed a fresh light onto one of Inc.'s favorite topics: The secret life of founder spouses. It isn't easy being married to a entrepreneur--or investor, for that matter--but here are a three tips from the Inc. archives on how to make the most of blended business and family relationships.
1. Schedule like a pro. Get electronic access to each other's calendars, suggests Tania Suster, wife of VC and former entrepreneur Mark Suster.
"I found that often the reason I need to speak to him was to figure out social plans, travel schedule or to block stuff out when he has important kid-duty stuff," she writes. "I use the calendar for scheduling so I don’t have to bug him about when he is free. We have a deal that in exchange for not bugging him about scheduling I’m free to make important plans around his calendar."
Another crucial time to consider the schedule: the hard conversations.
"Say 'we don’t need to discuss this now, but we need to schedule time to discuss X as its really important,'" she advises.
2. Keep it professional. Just be sure that when disagreements do occur--and they will--you both don't "wash your dirty laundry in your office, with the door closed," writes Mayra Jiminez, who co-founded swimwear retailer The Orchid Boutique with her husband.
"The differences that make you good partners in a marriage might not make you such good business partners," she writes. "You might envision different routes for your company's growth, for instance. Make sure you air your disagreements in scheduled meetings, behind closed doors. Otherwise, your employees can feel caught in the middle, and most importantly, you lose your standing as a team."
3. Think of a spouse like a client. Great spouses treat each other like important clients, writes Inc.'s Meg Hirshberg.
You win clients and customers by courting them, by offering not simple attention but true attentiveness. You are solicitous, observant, mindful, and aware--eager to anticipate and fulfill their needs. Your spouse is your No. 1 life client and most important connection. Court her--with a thoughtful gift, a just-because hug, morning coffee in bed--as though you really want to keep her business, too.