We are Doug and Polly White. We are business partners and co-authors. We share the stage during speeches and the microphone during interviews. We are also married. People frequently tell us, “You two work so well together. I could never work with my spouse.” We love working together. What could be better than spending every day with your best friend? While we make our situation sound rosy, it is not without its difficulties. It isn’t always rainbows and puppies in the office. We have learned to work together. We hope that what we have learned will help others find more joy in their marriage and work life.
One thing that helps us to avoid World War III across the partner desk is consideration. Being considerate of each other sounds so simple, but it is powerful. As both spouses and business partners, you know each other well―including each other’s hot buttons. Hot buttons are those things that trigger irritation in the other. The trigger can be a little thing, but little things count when you are with each other 24/7. Let us give you a few examples of what we mean by consideration.
Polly gets coffee in bed every morning. No, really, it is true! Doug gets up first, usually 30 to 60 minutes before his spouse and heads for their home-based office. He can see the lights turn on in the bedroom from his desk chair. This is Polly’s signal that she is awake. Doug stops what he is working on to bring her coffee. What a way to start the workday.
Polly will tell you that consideration cannot be a one-way street. Doug likes complete quiet when he is working. Polly prefers some noise in the background. However, in consideration of her business partner, she keeps things quiet. This rule extends to the phone. If one of the partners is working and the other gets a phone call, the talker leaves the office. This allows the one who is working to continue undisturbed.
Consideration also applies to splitting duties. Doug is very quantitative and pretty geeky. Okay, he is very geeky! He loves anything that involves numbers and spreadsheets. In consideration of his talents and preferences, Doug handles all the accounting, finance and most of the IT duties. Polly prefers anything that has to do with people. She manages the social media, newsletters and much of the marketing.
We apply the same consideration when we have to tackle the less attractive duties. Both Doug and Polly take on tasks that they don’t like to do. For instance, Doug pays the bills and Polly maintains the filing system. We also split many of the household duties. Doug has become proficient at doing the laundry, grocery shopping and unloading the dishwashers while Polly cares for the family pets, does the dishes and handles much of the cooking.
Not all duties are divided. Sometimes consideration means helping and supporting each other. We discuss client issues, edit each other’s writing, attending business events together, listen to each other and provide candid feedback – more about open, honest feedback in a future post. We help each other in our business and our home life.
Our best advice to anyone working with his or her spouse is to be considerate. You probably decided to get into this because you thought it would be great working with each other. You believed that you both could help each other and brought something vital to the business. You were probably right. Don’t let small things get in the way of what can be a wonderful adventure. Be considerate of each other’s needs and wants. Share both the fun and not-so-fun duties. Remember, you are in this together – for love and money!