This month, my company celebrates it’s 10th anniversary. Being an entrepreneur has its pitfalls, and I don’t love every single thing about it, but this is easily the coolest gig I’ve ever had. And against the odds, we’ve been successful as a company. Impressed? Well thank you, but I haven’t yet told you the most amazing part of it all.
I work with my husband. I don’t just mean that both of our names are on the incorporation documents, or that we both have signing privileges at the bank. We make decisions together. We hold meetings together. We share an office, and our desks are a whopping 10 feet apart. We go on business trips together and attend conferences together. And then at the end of the day, we go home and live together too. Even more impressive than our 10th anniversary at work is the fact that after all this time, we still like each other, that we’re still happy together. We get asked a lot about how we manage to stay on task and off of each other’s nerves. I don’t profess to be an expert, but for whatever it’s worth, here’s how it’s worked in our case:
- We were an us a long time before we were an Inc. There wasn’t any new dirty laundry that got aired when we decided to go into business together. If only all business partners could start out with that kind of full disclosure.
- We’ve also always had very different strengths, talents, and skills, and for the most part, we make a conscious effort not to intrude in each other’s space. That doesn’t mean we don’t share opinions or provide guidance. It just means that I recognize that I sometimes suck at the things he’s good at, and vice versa.
- We don’t argue at the office. Ugh. Can you imagine the supreme, squirm-inducing awkwardness? The airing of the grievances takes place where it ought to, in the car, on the way home, preferably with the windows rolled up and death metal blasting.
- We don’t ever talk business after hours. Okay, I can’t say this one with a straight face. Of course, we talk business after hours. Of course, we try not to, and of course, every so often, we swear we’ll stop doing it altogether. Then we cut ourselves some slack and remember that if we were both working at other jobs, we’d tell each other about our days when we got home.
- We don’t feel guilty when we’re successful and we reward ourselves. Being Mom and Pop, we don’t take a whole lot of vacation time, and there really isn’t any such thing as a day off. We’re elbow deep in this beautiful mess we’ve co-created, both professionally and personally. We’re allowed to reap the benefits once in a while.
- We accept that the business is an extension of our family. I’ve gone to networking events with a small person clinging to my leg. He’s changed diapers in the midst of conference calls. We’ve had two different dogs sleep under our desks. One day, we’ll likely have a sullen teenager waiting in the car as we run in to meet with new clients. In truth, part of the reason we started this whole gig was so that we could have that option.
- When things get turbulent, as they are wont to do in businesses, you can choose to turn on one another, or you can choose to hold onto one another for dear life. We choose the latter, even when we’re exhausted, cranky, and wondering why we don’t make our living putting dollops of whipped cream on hot beverages at Starbucks. We joke about how our bosses are demanding creeps, and that the hours suck. In the end, we know that no one else will have our backs like we do. That’s about as stable as anything gets for a couple of starry-eyed entrepreneurs, right?