Breakup of Clarklewis founders: a lession for family-owned ventures

| Print |  Email
Saturday, July 01, 2006

The news wasn’t pretty when it hit the papers a few months ago: Splashy restaurateur Michael Hebberoy quit his marriage and the eateries he and his wife had founded. After a handful of years as the reigning prince and princess of the red-hot Portland dining scene, Naomi Hebberoy was left to pick up the pieces. She promptly shut Gotham Bldg Tavern and Family Supper and set about saving Clarklewis.

All sorts of things were blamed for the blowup: financial problems, stretched resources, different visions, personal changes. The couple expressed hurt, regret. Could this marriage — and business — have been saved?

No one outside a marriage can really know why it falls apart, but Mark Green, director of the Austin Family Business Program at Oregon State University, says the Hebberoys were a classic couple-owned business case.

“They had a lot, maybe too much, going on, and they ran out of time for each other. Running a business is all consuming,” says Green, who works closely with families who own and operate businesses. Keeping life and work in balance can be tricky and dangerous.

“Copreneurship” — couples who go into business together — has been called the fastest-growing segment of family business, fueled by corporate job loss, women gaining equality in the workforce, more people working at home, and a desire to control one’s own life. Estimates put the number of copreneurships at 1.5 million nationwide. But the ventures are tricky to navigate.

If couples want to join the growing ranks of copreneurs, they need to go into it with forethought, honesty and some business and personal life planning. Otherwise, they risk not only losing their businesses, but also their loved ones.

Green points out that women in such business partnerships need to be particularly careful: “Women often end up doing more no matter what the relationship is. Even the most modern man is not so hot about cleaning up after himself. Men will never ever, in my estimation, do what women do around the house. The workload gets quickly out of balance.”

The perils of such a double union are many. Green says couples should start by writing a partnership agreement that outlines expectations for their business and personal lives. The agreement should include how to resolve disagreements, the financial and personal commitments for each partner, working hours, who makes what decisions. It’s a critical business pre-nup that can save heartache down the road.

The Austin program has developed a questionnaire that can help couples ferret out problems in advance. (To see all the questions, go to http://afbp.bus.oregonstate.edu/resources/frm_chklist_couples.aspx.) Questions include:

 

  • Can you hear negative feedback from your partner without having it hurt your relationship?
  • If you won the lottery, would you still stay in business as a couple?
  • Does working with your partner enhance your relationship?
  • Are attraction and romance alive in your relationship?
  • Do you receive sufficient appreciation from your partner?
  • Is the workload in the business and at home divided fairly between the two of you?
  • Are you as passionate about each other as you are about the business?

And you thought opening up that corner gelato shop together would be easy.

With 80% of family businesses never making it to the second generation and more than 1,000 family businesses facing bankruptcy in Oregon each year, it’s wise to make sure that your life partner is your best business partner before you hang out that shingle together.

— Robin Doussard

Have an opinion? E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


RESOURCES

Related books
Entrepreneurial Couples: Making it Work at Work and at Home by Kathy Marshack
Couples at Work: How Can You Stand to Work With Your Spouse? by E.W. James
Married in Business: What You Must Know and Achieve to Survive
and Thrive in Partnership by Jack Wyman

Austin Family Business Program www.familybusinessonline.org
The Austin Family Business Program at Oregon State University helps business-owning families manage day-to-day operations and plan for future generations. Topics such as succession, communications, growth and home/business balance are addressed. The program does not provide private consultation for individual family business or deal with start-up business issues.

 

More Articles

Corner Office: Sheree Arntson

January-Powerbook 2015
Saturday, December 13, 2014

Checking in with the managing director of Arnerich Massena.


Read more...

Legislative Preview: A Shifting Balance

January-Powerbook 2015
Thursday, December 11, 2014
BY APRIL STREETER

Democratic gains pave the way for a revival of environment and labor bills as revenue reform languishes.


Read more...

Streetfight

News
Sunday, December 07, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

On Friday, Uber switched on an app — and with one push of the button torpedoed Portland’s famed public process.


Read more...

Healthcare pullback

News
Thursday, November 20, 2014
112014-boehnercare-thumbBY JASON NORRIS | OB CONTRIBUTOR

Each month for Oregon Business, we assess factors that are shaping current capital market activity—and what they mean to investors. Here we take a look at two major developments regarding possible rollbacks of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).


Read more...

The short list: 5 companies making a mint off kale

The Latest
Thursday, November 20, 2014
kale-thumbnailBY OB STAFF

Farmers, grocery stores and food processors cash in on kale.


Read more...

Growing a mobility cluster

News
Friday, October 31, 2014
0414 bikes bd2f6052BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

Why are there so few transportation startups in Portland?  The city’s leadership in bike, transit and pedestrian transportation has been well-documented.  But that was then — when government and nonprofits paved the way for a new, less auto centric way of life.


Read more...

Editor's Letter: Power Play

January-Powerbook 2015
Thursday, December 11, 2014

There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace. 

Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.

This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay. 

Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.

New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”

That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!

— Linda


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS