Pros and Cons of Working as a Husband and Wife in Business

May 8, 2024

In this episode, I talk to Ian and Talia Musson from Toru Whā. They generously share their experience and offer tips for other couples who toy with the idea of working as a husband and wife in business. Should you? Or is it a no-no?


It makes sense, right? Maybe even more so when it comes to running a business.

🥇 Knowledge goes times two
🥇 Talent becomes more varied
🥇 Each party offers a different perspective
🥇 You can bounce new ideas off each other
🥇 The workload gets shared
🥇 You have someone to lift you up or bring you down; a burden shared is a burden halved.

I can’t think of a situation where that could be more true than for a husband and wife in business.


I ask husband and wife duo Ian and Talia from Toru Whā, a Hamilton-based brand development and design company, with a strong affinity for all things Māori and indigenous.

The Accidental Husband And Wife Business Plan

Toru Whā was born in 2020, out of the challenges that came with the times.

Ian and Talia clearly still grieve for “Nau Mai”, its older brother, a co-working space for non-tech people. It was the opposite of clinical and sterile. It was positive and warm. A space that connected like-minded people. (“Maybe we were just looking for friends”, Ian laughs)

In 2020, when nobody was co-doing anything, “Nau Mai” was bleeding money without generating an income.

But, like so often is the case, out of the challenge came the opportunity.

Talia had been dabbling in freelance graphic design for some time, but she was reaching the limits of what she could do on her own. The logical thing to do was to join the club of couples in business.

When the pair saw so many other Māori businesses struggle during tough times, they decided to make it their mission to lift them up, give them focus and profile.

Do what other businesses were doing, BUT BETTER.

And so they did....

Navigating A Working Husband And Wife Relationship

In many ways, Ian and Talia couldn’t be more different from each other.

“Alpha dad” Ian (his words, not mine) is outgoing, spontaneous and largely unconcerned. The epitome of the “she’ll be right” bloke. His biggest surprise is probably that somehow he is earning an income from “spinning a yarn”.

Talia, on the other hand, is the considered one. The introvert and the creative brain of the company.

What they share is a Māori background and a deep passion for their 3 young boys and the life they built together.

But there are obvious pros and cons of a husband and wife working together.

Being so different has its challenges and its moments of frustration. But it also makes them a great pair.

According to Talia, part of the secret is to make sure you work in well-defined separate areas.

But also, it comes down to respecting the other person. Talia respects what Ian does, which is business strategy. And vice versa, Ian doesn’t tread on the creative side of the business, which is Talia’s territory and area of expertise.

Whānau Pakihi: Negotiating The Work-Life Balance

Talking about avoiding blurred lines, when you’re a husband and wife in business, there’s also the overlap between what’s business and what’s private life.

Both partners have their boys at the very centre of everything they do. The business works around this, but it is also an integrate part of their life as a family.

Ian calls it a “whānau pakihi”.

As a perfect symbol, the business office is located in the garage of the family home. Kinda separate, but undeniably in the same building.

But working as a husband and wife definitely also has its perks. The pair make it a point to always have one of them present at school or sport events. Who that is depends very much on who is doing what on any given day.

It’s just part of the daily conversation.

Communication Is Key When You’re A Husband And Wife In Business

It doesn’t matter what partnership you look at, there’s little doubt about the importance of communication.

But when your business partner is also your life partner, things get complicated.

When I probe how Ian and Talia deal with this, they respond in a very matter-of-fact way:
“We’ve known each other for a very long time and we just know how to approach the other half.”

Ian knows how to read Talia when she gets worried or panicked or overwhelmed.

Talia knows exactly that the best place to discuss numbers and business plans with Ian is when they are in the car and he has nowhere else to go.

Celebrating Milestones: Small Wins, Big Victories


With that they refer to the risk of settling for the status quo, rather than to go all out and chase the dream.

It’s the thing Ian’s most proud of: their ability to envision the goal and to carve out a path that will get them there, against all odds.

Admittedly, a lot seems to happen on the fly. But the combination of Ian’s can-do attitude with Talia’s focus and planning seems to be a powerful mix.

Goals For The Future Of This Husband And Wife In Business

Talia and Ian are acutely aware that what is considered a normal part of business life doesn’t necessarily come naturally for Māori or Pacifica.

It is the goal for their own journey as a husband and wife in business to be a showcase for what is possible. But they also want to have a business that creates those exact opportunities for others.

Be the role model and the enabler in one and the same breath.

On a more personal level, the goal is a moana house. 🏠🌊

Which means scaling the business is still up for debate, because the last thing they want to do is to compromise on the quality of the service they offer.

Ian And Talia’s 3 Big Tips For Other Couples In Business

As always, when I have a guest on the podcast, I ask Talia and Ian about 3 key points they found useful in growing their service-based business?

This is what they think you should know:

  • Consistency: When you’re working together with your spouse, but even more so, if you are two very different people like Ian and Talia, it’s important to have consistency. Talia says clients expect the same level of service at all times. As a couple in business, it’s very important to communicate well and to keep each other on track. 
  • Systems: This one is not different to any other business, but as a couple, unsurprisingly, having sound systems avoids unnecessary quibbles. Making sure you have the right systems in place early in your journey makes life much easier on everybody. It saves time, takes the guesswork out of the day to day and it helps to safeguard the boundaries of each partner's responsibilities.
  • Focus: Ian feels very strongly about keeping your passion and vision at the centre of your decisions. When you’re dealing with the day to day and bills need to be paid, it’s easy to get seduced by the bling. His advice: Don’t trade your passion and vision for cash. EVER. When you are a husband and wife in business, sharing a common vision can be the best thing. However, compromising your mutual passion and goal is the quickest way to lose this precious gift in life.

That, to me, is very sound advice.

Get In Touch With Talia And Ian Musson From Toru Whā

Toru Whā offers graphic design services to make sure your stands out from the competition combined with in-depth business consulting.


Take this FREE 2-minute Quiz

Discover how to use your unique personality to systematise and streamline your digital service business or agency so you can scale without sacrifice (do more and work less!)

Subscribe on your favourite Podcast player