Can you be married and run a business together? Sound challenging, right? Wellit is. I write this today as I celebrate 21 years of marriage to my business partner of 13 years, Dave. I will not try to snow you and say it’s been easy. It hasn’t. Every day is a challenge. The question I get asked most often? “How is it working with your spouse?” Outside of something sarcastic, I never really have a good answer to this question. So it got me thinking as Dave and I enter into our third decade of marriage. A few quick lessons learned:
Seek outside help. I’m not talking about a marriage counselor (although if that’s what you need, don’t be afraid of it). We are so very fortunate to have recently developed an advisory board consisting of people that are amazing and excited to be a part of what we are building at Talent Retriever. This is a great step for us to push our accountability and growth to a new level. Dave and I are extremely driven, but our distractions are often common due to our personal situation. If you are serious about doing something big, don’t be afraid of outsiders to push you harder than ever before. One more thing – think about joining a peer group. Dave and I are both members of Vistage CEO groups. They are very distinct groups with different chairs, types of companies and personalities. This has given us both outlets outside of each other, as well as access to great resources which we come together and share in order to continue to make each other better.
Kindness and Love. Don’t forget who you are as people, not just co-founders. Remember why you got together in the first place. Here’s a case where the egg actually came before the chicken. It is really easy to start to go down a path of being competitive with each other, fighting over who is right, or even making a mountain out of a molehill situation. We are both so invested and our frustrations can quickly get in the way of success on a personal and business level. My advice (which I am still working on myself) is to take some breaths. Realize that time is being wasted. Visualize happiness. Change your mindset. Be positive. Be thankful. Keep in mind what an awesome life you have. As I said, this is something I still work on each and every day.
Daily Motivation. Dave gets total credit for our daily motivation program. Both of our days (as well as our kids’ days) start with a short inspiring video, a quote and a bible verse. There are some incredible, videos, podcasts and resources to bring into your life for free! This is an amazing way to keep things in perspective while still working to achieve levels we have never seen before in our business.
Have a life outside of work. This is a hard one. Dave and I are both quite guilty of swearing we won’t discuss work at particular times, but it’s such a large common interest, so how can we avoid it? My first piece of advice here is to be realistic. Rather than saying “Let’s not talk about work once we get home”, think about setting a more achievable goal. Make a date to go out to dinner and agree that you are going to hold off on work conversation. Hey – it’s tough – but hold each other to that small commitment and respect that agreement. These short periods of time focusing totally on other things is really refreshing! I would also recommend having outside hobbies – go to the gym, join a book club, have dinner separately with friends. It may feel like there’s no time to do these things, but the balance is key.
Endure. Resist the urge to quit. It is tough. Sure, it would be a lot easier some days to go get a job where our family is not at the high risk of a self-financed business. But take stock in what you have built (or can build). Risk is scary. If you want it bad enough and are willing to work hard AND smart, don’t give up. Over the years, we have faced many ups and downs, including numerous awards for company growth and culture, as well as draining out our 401K accounts to make payroll. But we have survived and learned many, many valuable lessons along the way. We are still working hard to reach a higher level, but I wouldn’t change a thing. This is truly living life.
So - I tell you with great enthusiasm, it can be done. Expect it to be a challenge, know there will be bumps. There will be fighting, there will be silence but there will be great shared joy. Here’s to 21 more years for Dave and I!