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I am often asked, “How do you work with your husband? I could never work with my partner”.
My friend Peta, who runs a brewery alongside her brewer husband, put my answer the best when she said, “I was sick of watching my husband give his best for the majority of the day, to someone else, and all I was getting was what was left over.
I wanted to get him at his best for the most time.” Here here.
Working with my spouse allows me to see my partner when he is on fire. You know, giving off that kind of energy that makes you want to run over and give him a big smoochy kiss? Well, that’s my answer. But don’t get me wrong, it’s not all flowers and chocolates. It definitely comes with its challenges.
The reasons I love working with my husband are the same reasons I hate working with my husband:
He’s completely unemotionally attached to the outcome of a conversation.
He’s a killer negotiator.
He lags on detail.
He is as tenacious to an outcome as a bulldog to a bone.
His ability to lead a conversation to a pre-defined agenda is outstanding.
He can be on 24/7.
He takes the bull by the horns and gets sh*t done.
He’s a spunk.
His strong points are my weaknesses, which in the creation of a well-rounded business is important. But when you are also raising two young men, under the age of 5, in addition to your together business, there needs to be strategy around bringing the yin and yang together.
So, in answer to the question, “How do I work with my husband?”, is something I’ve developed in the past 6 years of operation together. Let me give you my top 5:
- Get ‘on net’
‘On net’ is a military term (if you don’t know our backstory, Ed was an army officer for 17 years) that I have adopted as I really like what it represents.
As a military definition, the ‘net’ is ‘an organisation of stations capable of direct communications on a common channel or frequency’. So, ‘on net’, means being on the same channel or wave length.
The reason I have adopted this particular military lingo, is I think it’s a great way to express being on the same page. And being on the same page, when you are equal partners in a business and family, is incredibly important.
You are the major shareholders in everything you do together: Raising kids, intimacy, and what is banked every month. If you are not strategically, physically, energetically and emotionally on the same page, what is achieved will not be what is your best.
- Know who hammers the nails and who manages the plan
Knowing your roles is uber important in any business. When you run an organisation with your significant other, it’s uber squared important.
Before you got in to working together, there’s a strong likelihood that you both had other professions, right? Well, use that to your advantage.
In our business, Ed’s hands-on skills in combat situations, dealing with officers of ranks above and below his, makes him killer at handling people. He knows exactly what to say to the outcome he so desires and shifting plans on the fly. He is also excellent at seeing how you can move something from where it is now, to where it needs to be in the quickest and most efficient way. The man used to build roads and economies in war-torn countries! He’s got this one. As such, he is at the coal-face with our clientele. He gets them from where they are to where they need to be, supporting them to navigate through some tough decisions and conversations along the way. It’s a no-brainer for me to have him in that role and completely honour his abilities.
In turn, he honours and encourages my job, which is to keep him in play.
But why is it ‘uber squared’ important to know your roles so clearly?
Let’s be honest, working with your husband (or your wife, girlfriend, or boyfriend) is never completely emotionless. The more you can do to eliminate boil over when you are talking shop, the better. And if you are clear on your roles in the business, then you are more likely to be clear on your responsibilities at home. Who will drop the kids to the sitters or to kindy? Who is organising date night? Who will pay the bills? Who takes out the garbage, washes the cars, cooks the meals, does the shopping … ? Get it? These might have naturally evolved, but I bet most of you are like us, you had to have a conversation about what the expectations of each other were.
Why would it be any different in the workplace? You can let it naturally evolve and cruise through things, working toward the outcome. Or, you can consciously decide who is hammering the nails and who is managing the plan, then see how more effective you become as a pair. I’d love to hear your results.
You can learn more about this in our saucy video: How to keep the fights clean and the sex dirty!
- Give each other the OK to say ‘No’, purely on the ‘gut instinct’ basis
One of our early business couple mentors, Paul and Mary, once shared with us a lesson that continues to this day to have a place in our decision-making.
You see, when you run a business and a family with your husband, you don’t want to be involved in every decision – that’s why we have roles. The other thing we have put in place to overcome this need to share every decision, thanks to the lesson shared by our friends, is that we also have a limit on how much money we can say ‘yes’ to without an OK from the other half.
When Paul and Mary’s business began to take off, they were offered an investment opportunity that, if it came off, would provide really great returns. I can’t remember the details of what the investment was, but I remember the sum Paul wanted to hand over was $10,000. When he discussed this with Mary, she was unsure about the idea. She had questions about the actual investment, the rate of return and the character of the person asking. Basically, she just felt that it was a wrong move.
Regardless of that, Paul didn’t hear any sound reason to stop his actions, so went ahead. Shortly after, the venture collapsed and they lost what they had put in.
It caused a barney.
A huge barney that was started by Mary and fully thrown at Paul. And, Paul couldn’t understand why. He thought they’d made the decision together.
At the time, probably 10 years ago now, $10,000 was a lot of money. And for them, it was a decent little chunk of their year’s earnings.
A fair way in to the argument, Paul asked, “Why didn’t you say anything?”. To which Mary replied, “Well, I did. I asked questions about the investment and told you I thought it was a wrong move.”
“Oh,” said Paul. “I didn’t take it that meant no.”
It was then Mary recognised she didn’t feel that she had a right to say ‘no’ to something Paul was so passionate about. And so, from that day on, they gave each other permission to not only say ‘no’, but to say ‘no’ on the basis that they just didn’t feel it was the right move.
Since then, Ed and I have always respected gut instinct. And actually, my instinct and intuition is a tool that Ed will often use when making his decisions on different clients, colleagues and direction.
CAUTION: If you are going to use instinct and intuition to guide your decisions and to say ‘no’, be sure to check in that you are not just saying ‘no’ out of fear.
- Get REALLY practical at least once a week
Sunday nights in our house is practical night.
After our two small children are in bed, we head to the couch with our phones and computers in hand. I don’t generally encourage downtime to also involve technology, but for a short time on Sunday nights, our couch is all about boardrooms not bedrooms!
We sync calendars and prepare for the week ahead. What important meetings pr projects are coming up, and does it affect the rest of the family? Who’s picking up and dropping off the wee one from kindy? What night is guitar practice? What mornings are you planning to train this week? Are my non-negotiables still good to be in place?
Sometimes this can take us 10 minutes. Sometimes this can take us an hour.
What the practice does for us is so much bigger than syncing schedules, though. It also opens the doors for bigger conversations about how we are both feeling, or to brainstorm something we’re unsure, nervous or excited about.
The biggest benefit for me, though, is that it allows the room for spontaneity. I know, it sounds a bit backward, but when you are both working long days (whether that is in the business, on the business, or as a full-time mum), I find that the certainty of knowing when I will get some down time keeps me going.
Energy Management is a huge deal in our home – especially for me, when it has been a long day with two small children. If I know that I will get a reprieve from doing the witching hour on my own, or that I don’t have to pick up my wee one from kindy, I can manage how much I have to give over to everyone else. As long as I know when I can hang up my apron for the day, I can make it through anything. It’s the uncertainty that drains me. Getting practical weekly allows me to manage how much I can fit in to my week without burning out.
Sure, there will be times when things don’t go exactly to plan, but that’s the minority. And, the whole process is a little boring, but the rewards for the rest of my week make it worth it.
- Use your car time to communicate
I am a full-time mum. I am also a full-time business woman. Our business is like my third child.
It needs to be fed my attention to grow and develop. I rely on it to give me elements of my life satisfaction. The things that it does for others bring me great joy. Just like my human children.
As such, I am thinking about the two concurrently, a lot. You know that feeling, right?
And because of this, it means that there are very few times during ‘office’ hours that I can make phone calls without the little people yelling or wanting my attention. Nor, do I want to have our dinner conversations completely hijacked by business thoughts, ideas or movement. So, I have learnt to work in the car with Ed.
If I can’t get him on the phone to talk with, I will send him a video message, or an audio text message. That way we can be driving hands free and still making ground on forward motion.
Do you work with your partner? I’d love to hear your top coping strategies for working together. What works and what doesn’t work for you? Leave me a comment on our Facebook page under this blog post.
Couples in Business — see how these guys make it work: