One of the biggest joys in my life has been working with my wife Stacy. One of the biggest challenges in my life has also been working with my wife Stacy.
When spouses get together to run a business, the partnership is vastly different from one you may have with somebody else. And though you might think it will be easy when you’re starting out — because there’s love, there’s trust, your financial goals are the same and you know each other’s strengths and shortcomings intimately – that’s usually not the case.
The road to a business partnership with your spouse is a bumpy one, because you’re taking an emotionally-bonded relationship and trying to fit those same feelings into a professional mold – where they may not fit at all. So egos come out to protect your independence, you bump heads with each other on matters that should not get emotionally-charged – and then you take those ornery feelings back home where they now start impacting your personal life.
I have been there, experienced that, and I am writing this blog in the hope that my story will help another couple navigate this uncharted territory with more success than Stacy and I had when I first decided to help her with her business six years go.
When we got married, Stacy was with Nordstrom, working retail hours that did not suit a newly-married couple at all. She missed out on Christmases and Thanksgivings, worked every long weekend, and most of our time was spent apart as she tried to hit unrealistic quotas to climb further up the corporate ladder.
Within months into our marriage, Stacy decided this was not worth it. She resigned her position and went back to school to become an esthetician. I supported her decision, though it meant we’d be a single-income family now, because I knew she was following her heart towards a career she would absolutely love. We were young and had the stomach for risks.
Once she graduated, she went to work at a salon, and got a taste of what it is like to run a beauty business. She started a small enterprise of her own, with a spray tanning set-up in our house, and I helped her launch her first company: Beaute d’or. In a 500 sq ft space, we installed all the equipment she needed to perform most beauty services you’d expect from an at-home salon.
And then Beachbody happened.
It was a major turning point in Stacy’s life when, after having our second child, she embraced fitness as her passion, obsession. I joined her in her Beachbody business, doing the behind the scenes items, keeping accounts and supporting her with marketing.
I tried Beachbody prior to her, losing 70lbs in 6 months, so I could understand the fitness philosophy with my own life experience. But I soon realized the business side of Beachbody was not for me.
I was transitioning from real estate at the time, and thinking about what I wanted to do next, but the only help I could give Stacy was from the outside.
This was during 2016, when I was taking a break before I started a media company. I was experiencing a lot of personal stress because I was choosing to walk away from a real estate career that guaranteed a lot of money. And I brought all that psychological baggage to Stacy’s Beachbody business when I declared I would take some time off to help her build it.
My entrepreneurial mindset took over, you see. I said I wanted to help, but what I was doing was taking over her business. Stacy’s work style is slow, steady and consistent and there were many faults I could find in that approach. I felt like a high-energy rabbit who was being forced to crawl forward instead of sprint because I was partnering with a tortoise.
Extremely uncalled for, these selfish comparisons, but I did not see the error of my ways. I pushed her, pushed myself, and created a stressful working relationship with my wife because I was allowing my own frustrations to cloud my judgement. I was blind to the great results she was getting by just being herself. I wanted her to be more innovative and more successful because I knew how to make that happen. And I couldn’t understand why Stacy was being stubborn and not simply following my lead.
Needless to say, the friction I caused at work, followed us home, where we were raising two awesome kids. My family life – something I treasure and value above anything else – was getting deeply affected because I wanted to work with my spouse, but didn’t have enough awareness or understanding of the situation to make a success of it.
Over the past few weeks, I have been helping Stacy with her business again. And after the debacle of my last attempt, I am surprised she has the bigness of heart to let me.
But time and experience has taught me a lot, and I am doing it differently this time around. For one, I am no longer at a crossroad in my own professional life. Mastodon Media is growing and I am proud of all the success my media company has achieved in just a couple of years. I am in a space of grace – and this time when I volunteered to help Stacy, I really meant it.
I had no intentions of taking over. I wanted to play a supporting role, in a way that helped Stacy run her business the way she wanted to. I give her feedback now on how to build marketing channels, build a Youtube followership and expand her social branding, and that is all I am doing. She is taking the lead, and I am sitting back and watching her grow in knowledge and experience at her own pace. And I am incredibly, incredibly proud of her.
The lesson I have learnt from this entire experience is a big one. And by making amends in Round II of our working relationship, I hope I am making up for all the mistakes I made when I thought that a professional partnership with my spouse is going to be a walk in the park.
Below, I have listed a few things to watch out for if you’re embarking on a business venture of your own with your significant other. If you’re aware of the pitfalls, and prepared to negotiate them, it is my hope that you will not repeat the same mistakes I made…
# 1: Don’t Bring Work `Home’
Set boundaries between work time and family time – even if they’re both taking place under the same roof. Agree that the threshold of the home office is where you stop talking/discussing/debating about professional concerns and behave like a normal family.
# 2: Be Constantly Aware Of Your Ego
A professional disagreement can quickly become a married couple’s fight if you’re not holding your ego in check. Neither your relationship, nor your business will profit in any way if your spouse’s laziness about doing laundry or walking the dog happens to come up when you’re arguing over a business decision.
# 3: Maintain Professional Respect In Front Of Others
Never mind how the logistics of your unique relationship works, be careful not to talk down to your spouse or discount his/her concerns and opinions in front of others. The hurt feelings you cause will follow you home and snowball into a major showdown that you were probably not expecting because you’re used to talking like that when working together in private.
# 4: Preserve Individual Identities
I have known of couples who come into office and leave office separately if they’re working together. Small routines like this help preserve each partner’s sense of individuality and breaks the continuum of being constantly together.
# 5: Enjoy Your Separate Hobbies
Unlike couples who are always looking for opportunities to spend time together, you need to create some healthy space in your relationship. Hobbies can take you away for a time, and you can come back feeling refreshed and with new experiences to share with your partner.
# 6: Don’t Be Jealous
Don’t give in to the naughty, green monster if your husband or wife seems to be enjoying more successes than you are at the moment. The reason you chose your spouse from among all others is because of who they are. So celebrate and be proud. This is a partnership, not a contest.
# 7: Don’t Become Work Colleagues Who Happen To Live Together
As colleagues who’re always in each other’s company, you have to work doubly hard to keep the romance alive in your relationship. Getting too comfortable working together comes with the possibility of taking each other for granted. Nurture your relationship and make `date nights’ a priority.