When one’s business partner is also one’s spouse, there is a natural tendency to have work discussions at home or on other personal time. It is often difficult to “be off the clock” when there are issues at work that demand the attention of the small business person at all hours of the day, on all days of the week. Under most circumstances, it is fine to discuss work issues at home or during off hours, as long as both partners agree, however, there must be limits imposed to one’s work life if there is to be any hope of having a personal life. One of the things my spouse/business partner and I have done to enforce personal time is the implementation of a “fine system,” whereby we pay a fine each time a work topic is mentioned during a time we have agreed will be 100% personal time. The times we are completely off the clock are few and far between, but when we are on a much needed, well deserved vacation, there is nothing that will ruin it faster than for one of us to keep talking about work. The fines we impose are pre-arranged and can range from $1.00 per infraction to whatever we are comfortable with (I once got a lovely pair of earrings when a $100.00 fine per incident was imposed; it worked well in that there were 2 infractions, at $100.00 each, in close proximity, so that I ended up with a matched pair of earrings instead of only one!) The fine system may not work for everyone, but it has been an effective way for us to enjoy vacations and other personal time to the fullest extent possible.
Melissa has made out better than I have in collecting fines, even if I have been entrapped on an occasion or two. I mean, I can’t help it when someone calls me on my cell phone, right? When we first met I was a freelance photographer and on call for clients. She did not always understand my taking those calls. As we began working together the need to take these calls became more obvious and we’ve taken them at some strange times and in some unique places. For example, during Mardi Gras on a Sunday afternoon in New Orleans (and after a few libations) a client called to set up a mock trial. We took the call and booked the case. But, there is a limit and a time to say enough. The fine system reinforces this in a friendly wager kind of way.