How one couple makes it work in a tough economy
Throughout the holidays, we all should unplug from our careers to focus on family, friends, and whatever else for which we’re thankful. As I reflect, it’s easy to focus on my four children, including my 6 month-old daughter, who bring purpose and meaning to my life.
And I’m so thankful that my husband Phil and I (pictured below), as two young law school students (several years ago!), decided to take the plunge and launch our own business. We’ve actually started two companies. We had the good fortune to sell our first business to Intuit back in 2005, then realized entrepreneurship was our passion and started all over again with our current business, CorpNet.com, in 2009.
I’ll be honest, though. Running our business these past few years has proved to be more challenging than our first time around. The good news:all the ups and downs in this tough economy have actually brought my husband Phil and I closer together, as business owners and as husband and wife.
When things are tough, we need to be there for each other. I know I couldn’t run this business without Phil, and vice versa. There are days when I look at Phil and I want to do better…to give it all I have to close a sale, help a customer, or dream up a new advertising campaign. I believe our love motivates us to do better at work, and the challenges at work give us newfound appreciation for each other’s strengths and tenacity.
I know we’re lucky. Financial stress and an economic downturn can wreak havoc on a marriage. But somehow, we’ve managed to not only keep our sanity, but strengthen our commitment to one another along the way. Here are a few techniques we’ve learned to strike the right balance between being healthy, happy marital partners as well as business partners:
1. Respect each other no matter what: I may not always agree with Phil (and vice versa!), but I always respect him. I understand we each bring our unique talents and strengths to the business. Believe me, I voice my opinion and stand my ground when needed, but I also recognize that there are times when I just need to trust where Phil is headed.
2. Put your ego aside: In the office (well, at home too), it’s critical to put your ego aside and do what’s best for the situation. Adding your pride to the equation is a recipe for disaster…for both your career and relationship.
3. Leave business behind at the dinner table: This is the one time during the day where we try to make a clean break from being business partners. This simple rule helps us stay healthy and multi-faceted both as individuals and as a couple. Of course, with four young children, it would be practically impossible to discuss business at the table anyway!
4. Take date night just as seriously as a big client meeting: Even to this day, Phil and I try as hard as possible to have our own date night each week. When you’re running your business, it’s easy to move mountains to squeeze in a meeting with an important client. And we try to do the same for our own time, too.
5. Separating business and home life is important, but it’s simply not always going to be possible.
At times, Phil and I realize that the office is the only time we can discuss important issues free from interruption from the kids. Likewise, late at night might be the only time when we can discuss future plans for the company. Rather than fighting it, we accept the reality of the situation. And we also try to foster a work culture where our employees also feel comfortable attending to some personal matters in the office when necessary.
6. Show you care (even at work). My business card might read ‘CEO,’ but I still bring Phil his coffee or water each day. Yes, it might be a small gesture, but I like to think it shows I’m thinking of him.
Running a business with your spouse is not for every couple. But if you’ve been toying with the idea, don’t let all the warnings and horror stories scare you off. For Phil and I, entrepreneurship has been an exhilarating roller coaster and we have no plans of stopping the ride any time soon. Love can truly make anything possible. And with a little flexibility and imagination, keeping a healthy balance as business owners and marital partners is more than possible!
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More business advice from Nellie at CorpNet.com