Q: My business partner and I run a small design agency. His wife has just been made redundant from her rather grand corporate marketing role and he wants to give her a job in our business. She's got lots of experience and all that, but I am not sure she's cut out for the rough and tumble of life in an SME with only 10 employees. It would also look a lot like nepotism. How should I handle this?
Jeremy says: Your first instinct, presumably, is to talk it through with your partner, gently expressing your reservations, and hope that he, in turn will get his wife to see the potential disadvantages of such an arrangement. This would put the burden of persuasion on his shoulders and almost inevitably cast you as the villain. There might be a better way.
My guess is that your business partner is himself in two minds about this. I suspect he'd much rather this situation hadn't arisen but now that it has, feels duty-bound to help his wife and to be seen to be doing so.
So he might just welcome it if you asked for his agreement that you talk to his wife directly. You will know the case against her joining your company better than I do and why it wouldn't even be in her own best interests. At least this way, everything would be out in the open.
Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. Email him your problems at email@example.com. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.