They say business isn’t personal, but what do you do when your personal life is your business, or when your spouse is your business partner? Being married to your business certainly presents some challenges, like when spreadsheets make their way into the bedroom transforming pillow talk into a business meeting. While the typical advice to husband-and-wife teams calls for creating a division of responsibilities and keeping business talk out of the bedroom, some successful husband-and-wife teams have some more unique ways of tackling these challenges.
Here is a selection of what successful husband-and-wife teams do to keep their business and relationship strong:
Together, Jeff Tews and Susan Rather grew their single BrightStar Care franchise into a $9 million operation with 32 employees and 500 caregivers. To keep their business and marriage strong, these two leave the country–often for months at a time to go on adventure bike tours riding on a tandem bike. Their bike adventures not only allow Tews and Rather to achieve greater work-life balance, but help them solidify their plans for their business.
“We spend time thinking about business direction and improvements when not immersed in the day to day work and come back from these rides energized to move our business forward,” says Rather. The tandem bike adventures also help to enrich the couple’s personal relationship.
But beyond keeping their love for their business and each other alive, these extended bike adventures also allow the couple to empower their employees to take ownership and strengthen their individual leadership and management skills. “The tandem bike adventures we embark on have allowed us to prove to our team that they are empowered to act and that they are capable of performing effectively as a team [without us overseeing them],” says Tews. This has allowed Tews and Rather to focus more of their attention on the overall strategy for the company rather than getting mired in its day-to-day operations.
Grant and Alison Belbin have been married for 13 years. As owners of 1-800-GOT-JUNK, a junk removal company in British Columbia, the Belbins are no strangers to the interpersonal conflict that can affect business couples and have opted to work out their frustrations on the sports field, playing co-ed soccer. Taking to the soccer field allows this couple to spend some quality time together while ensuring they won’t fall back on business talk. “We find that even if we go to dinner together, the conversation always ends back on business, so playing together is a very welcomed forced mental break and reset,” says Alison.
The Belbins have also taken some important lessons from the soccer field; especially around teamwork. “Playing soccer together reinforces that we are a team and that working together is far more productive than working alone,” says Alison. Soccer has also taught some important leadership lessons that the Belbins have taken back into their office. “Playing together reminds us to congratulate each other and our employees on day-to-day accomplishments,” says Belbin.
Jamie Parker and Phil Greenough, president and CEO of the Boston-based communications firm Greenough Communications indulge in the ritual of a daily happy hour as a way to reconnect personally and professionally, while limiting how much of their personal time is consumed by business discussions. “During the time it takes to mix Knob Creek bourbon, Carpano’s Antica Vermouth, Angostura orange bitters and Luxardo cherries, we distill our daily experiences to the one or two issues that need focus and resolution. When the drink is done, so is our business discussion,” says Greenough.
Bryan Wilson and Sara Farber, owners of Galactic Sneeze, a Brooklyn-based fun stuff think tank, integrate afternoon walks into their daily schedule. “After lunch, we pick a topic then go for a 45-minute stroll around our hood with the goal of getting some fresh air and exercise, while also working through a design challenge or new concept,” says Sara. The walks not only help the couple get in some exercise and work through creative challenges (they often find inspiration while walking around their bustling Brooklyn neighborhood), but also serve to strengthen the couple’s personal relationship–especially if they hold hands while walking.