Couples who work together arguably put more stress upon their relationship than those who have separate jobs.
You’re constantly in each other’s company, there are often fewer people in a small business to act as a buffer and there’s the danger of taking whatever is happening in your personal life into the workplace. That could mean drama with a capital D.
With Valentine’s Day on the horizon we asked three couples who run their business together just how they make their workplace more like love and less like war.
That’s your job and this is mine
Splitting the responsibilities by acknowledging each other’s skills and experience is essential.
Michael and Karen Martin, owners of MM Photos in Randwick, Sydney, are testament to that.
“We play to our strengths and leave each other to get on with our own workload,” Michael said.
Michael started the wedding photography business five years ago and his wife Karen joined him last year after leaving her corporate job of 20 years.
“Michael is the creative person in the relationship which I let him get on with and then with my business experience, I work in the back office managing accounts and invoices,” Karen said. “So in that sense, it’s easy to share the workload. Our roles and responsibilities are clearly defined.”
Husband and wife team Shaun and Kerryn Mathieson only started Sydney Flower Social, hosting private flower arrangement workshops for hens, birthday parties and baby showers, four months ago, but they are quickly learning to work seamlessly together.
“We're both very hands-on,” Shaun said.
“There's only two of us so we both muck in and do a bit of everything. When it comes to the actual events, Kerryn is the florist so naturally she runs the workshops. I’m a keen photographer so when our guests want a momento of the day, we offer a photo shoot which I will then manage.”
There’s work, and then there’s play
There’s work time and then there’s play time -- but when you work hard and long hours in a small business it can be difficult to differentiate between the two.
Georgina Goddard and Morgwn Wilkie are the co-owners of Queensland company Work Shop Objects, a furniture business that develops and manufactures a range of homewares and custom products. LINK: www.work-shop.net.au
They’ve been together since 2004, have worked together for almost 10 years and, although they don’t always stick to it, they have a strategy for separating work and home.
Make sure your relationship is strong enough to survive the stress of small business, says Georgina Goddard and Morgwn Wilkie.
“Although it’s difficult and we’re not the best at doing this, we make a point of getting away from the workshop otherwise we just spend all our time working on the business,” Morgwn said.
“Every so often we try to spend the weekend on a farm stay somewhere in the Brisbane hinterland or heading down the coast to Byron Bay for a catch up with friends and family.
Karen from MM Photos has a ‘don’t look back’ policy.
“When you shut the door at work, ensure you leave work at work and don’t bring it home with you,” she said. “But more importantly, make sure you still organise dates and make an effort in that sense.
“At the end of the day, the reason many people have their own business is to have more control on their work/life balance so remember this.”
The couple also make sure they have a holiday booked in advance to look forward to.
Just keep talking
The couples say constant communication is the key to make working together less stressful.
“Keep communicating and stay connected with one another as good communication is the key,” said Georgina.
She also advises couples considering building a business together to have good look at their partnership before diving in headfirst.
“Before you embark on working together, make sure you have a strong base for your relationship and be accepting of change,” she said.
Here comes the fuzzy-feeling stuff
Small business can be extremely rewarding, mostly because those who start them are passionate about what they do. And being able to share it with your other half is pretty special.
“It’s really nice to share the experience of building something from scratch with your significant other and feeling proud of it together,” Kerryn said.
Shaun and Kerryn Mathieson have been in business together for four months, and are loving it.
“Our business is small and it’s still very new and exciting for us, so it doesn't feel like work as we know it. We are both working full time jobs as well and are more than happy to pour our spare time into it.”
Morgwn takes a very positive approach to the inevitable long hours that need to be spent on a small operation.
“It’s great working with Georgina, we have a very similar design theory and we are both comfortable bouncing ideas off one another,” he said.
“We have strong work ethics and understand working long hours are a part of life. At least we get to spend more time together and when we work late now, we can go out for dinner together afterwards.”
Partners venturing into business together is a much more common phenomenon than it used to be, says Rob Parcell, Managing Director Optus Small Business.
“We are seeing more couple entrepreneurs coming through our Optus Business Centres than ever before that have turned their passion points into an exciting business opportunity,” he said.
“Optus knows that small business is the backbone of the economy, which makes it an exciting time to be a SMB owner in Australia so what better person to have by your side in your business journey than your partner?”