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Octobers are always my favorite and that’s only come with marriage. There are just so many things to celebrate and the weather is a lot more endurable than its predecessor. Today officially marks five years of marriage with this guy, nine years of us being in a relationship, and eight years of us working together as designers and developers.
We often get questioned about our business name and how we started in this industry. I had a minor interest in design and a major interest in creating websites after an HTML class my sophomore year. David had an interest in being employed and was obnoxiously good at doing things with computers. Somehow our small hobbies turned into projects for people we knew and shortly before getting married, it was obvious that we worked well together. I don’t know exactly when we consciously made the decision to pursue clients and projects but we did. Although we’ve been working together for a while, Sevenality is a truly a product of this five-year journey of marriage.
Consciously Deciding to Work Together
For years, David and I had collaborated on projects. For the most part, we split payments or just let them go to whomever was heading out the project. It seemed like a no-brainer that we would decide to run a business together but it’s not always an easy choice to make. Owning a business with your spouse is not the same as occasionally working along side each other. We had to be realistic about the challenges that having a family business brings.
- Working together means being equals. Our marriage is a 50/50 partnership. That philosophy doesn’t work for everyone but it works for us which is why it wasn’t hard to implement this into our business. We make all decisions together. Although we often work on projects separately, we work under the same umbrella and our clients are well aware. We both respect each other’s opinions and it’s easy to get things done.
- Work disputes =/= marriage disputes. We never drag things from work into our home life. It’s not the easiest when you work from home but it can work. We have rarely fought about anything work-wise so it’s not so hard to implement the work/home peace treaty here.
- Continuously raising expectations. One of the things about being married to your business partner is learning to continuously challenge each other. When you work regular jobs, you don’t necessarily get too involved in your spouse’s skill set. We both know how “good” we are and we make it our jobs to continue to push each other to do better.
How Do You Communicate?
Communication problems are already an issue in an average marriage. If you add in a business, you really need to know how to communicate with your partner. I’m not saying we’re experts at communication. We really had to learn how we speak, how we work, and we relate to our clients. Communication is the key to any successful relationship and there are just some things to keep in mind when working with your significant other.
- Communicating effectively requires learning. No two people learn to communicate effectively overnight. It takes time and it requires you to learn about the other person. Knowing how your business partner approaches problems, deadlines, or other stressful situations really sets the tones on how you communicate with them about these issues. We both deal with things very differently but we’ve learned what’s the best way to respond through communication.
- Talk it out. While I am a key believer in keeping everything in writing, when it comes to business decisions, I like us to talk it out face to face. It’s easier to understand where we’re coming from through speaking to each other rather than just e-mailing each other. I think we’ve all gotten a text or email that seems to be written in a certain tone. It’s better to take the time to sit down and verbally talk about it.
- Let it go. At the end of the day when business hours are over, let anything unresolved wait for the next day and keep moving with your marriage. Sometimes we do things that irritate each other in our business but if I spent all night fuming over it, we would have filed for divorce months ago. It’s best to let business problems go and agree to work them out when you’re both in a good place. You’d be surprised at how often business problems resolve themselves overnight if you let them.
Creating A Collaborative Workflow
We both have very different skills. David has a background in sales and networking and I have a background in office management. I am really good at creating workflows, keeping things organized, managing our accounting. I absolutely hate sales and have come to learn effective networking and building business relationships. However, those things are what David is good at. We both have to play on our strengths and weaknesses to the best of our abilities.
- Knowing what works best for you. I definitely wouldn’t say sales is my strong point. We both identified our strong points and created responsibilities around those. I wouldn’t really expect David to volunteer for bookkeeping and if we’re behind on it, I know it’s my fault. Knowing what we’re good at helps keep us accountable for things that happens in our business.
- Being flexible. While we do have things that are defined, there are several things we have to be flexible on. If one of us is sick or out of town, we need to know how to work within each other’s roles. This also applies to scheduling projects. Although I do love to work early mornings, if we need to work through the night, I’m ok with that.
- Collaborate effectively. We’ve been collaborating on projects for almost as long as we’ve been dating. We both know how we like to organize our PSDs, files, etc. Those things take time to learn but it’s better to do it the smart way once than the hard way multiple times. I love to get through projects as efficiently as possible and working with a team requires a great collaborative spirit. It’s also fun to see what we can come up with when we’re doing things together.
Don’t Take It Personal
I have abnormally thick skin, which is almost problematic. I grew up in a large, close extended family which meant there wasn’t very much “spotlight” time. David grew up in a family of three and he was the only “child” so to speak. He definitely has a different viewpoint of things that happen than I would. There are things that happen within our business or with our clients that can really test us. What we’ve learned is to just to not take it personal. Like having a terrible manager or co-worker, people often say or do things that you have to not be affected by.
- Not all clients prefer or require a duo. I stated earlier that we work on a lot of projects separately. There are things David works on that I never do anything on and vice versa. Since I am at home all day, I handle all of our retainer clients. It’s much easier to get through smaller projects with one person than two. Also, there are clients that who we don’t always vibe with. Some clients work better with David and some work better with me. We always take communication lead on the clients that fit better with our personalities.
- It’s not about us. At the end of the day, it’s not about us. It’s about our clients and their customers. There’s no reason for us to be upset when our ideas are not picked or someone chooses David’s work over mine. We have to do what’s best for our clients. We can’t allow our egos or our relationship to get in the way of that.
- There’s a time and place for everything. This is the most important thing to remember when you work with your significant other. Work things are work things. While we do often find ourselves chatting about our clients or our industry in our free time, we have other hobbies to keep us busy. Learning to separate business and marriage is a priority to stay sane.
Here’s to five more years of us working together and making this marriage thing work! Maybe next year I can share how being parents have changed things. 🙂