I’ve owned a few businesses, some on my own, two of them with partners. For tax purposes, it’s important to be clear whether any person I am working with is an employee, a self-employed contractor, or a partner.
An employee does what I want, how I like it, and when I want, typically at will, which means either of us can end the relationship if we’re unhappy.
A self-employed contractor can be told what to do or how to do it, but not both, Typically, we work under a contract that says what they will do for me, when they’ll finish, how much I’ll pay them, and when. If I like the job they do and they like working for me, we can contract again. If we really like working together, we can become partners.
A partner shares all of the responsibilities and all of the profits with me. If my partner falls ill, I need to do their job as well as my own. They need to do the same if something happens to me. I don’t get to tell my partner what to do or how to do it, because it’s not my business, it’s our business. If we disagree on how to do something or what to do, it’s time to talk through our disagreement.
If I just don’t have the time or energy to do all of the things I believe the business needs, I can delegate some of the work to an employee, recognizing that other parts of their job will go undone. Or I could delegate some of it to a contractor, giving up control over either the outcome I want or the process and timetable I prefer.
What I can’t do, if I want the business to survive, is treat my partner like an employee or even like a contractor. I can share with my partner what I believe needs doing and ask if they have time for any of it, but if they are as pressed for time and energy as I am or if they don’t agree it needs doing, giving orders will only damage our future working relationship, even if they do what I am commanding.
When it comes to maintaining our home, shopping for food and cooking it, cleaning up, filing taxes, making appointments, or making sure our cars run, even with bringing in income, my husband is my business partner. Whatever good comes of keeping up with these chores comes to both of us. Whatever responsibilities we share are all mine when he’s out of commission (as they will be if we divorce over our disagreements). And nagging him to do what he promised or demanding help when I can’t possibly do all that I promised is only going to damage our long-term relationship and possibly leave me with all of the responsibilities.
Better to set aside money to pay for helpers whenever we need them, because we all need help at times and seldom at the time when there’s suddenly a little bonus money in the kitty.