How does your partnership handle one of you dealing with non-business challenges?
Life’s big emotional bumps in the road challenge anyone’s business life. You can’t plan for everything that life throws your way. Lately, for us, it’s been my mother’s failing health. A slow decline over the last year and a half is becoming ever more consuming. From flying to my parents every month or so to help out, to the ever-present emotional strain of watching people you love in pain, it’s rough.
Of course, as resilient American superpeople, we’re programed to suck it up, put on a brave face, and move forward. It’s never easy. But when you’re a couple in business together, there are extra challenges—including the fact that 50% of the management team is not performing anywhere near peak ability. How does the other pick up the slack? How do you compartmentalize enough to accomplish the minimum? How do you support your partner and not get sucked into their grief?
Back when we were recording the interview that became episodes #33 & 34, we were sitting down with Murray and Felicity Gardner of the Gardner Group in Park City. Murray informed us that his mother’s health was in decline, and he could be getting a call at any moment to jump on a plane to Australia. At this point, my own mother had started going downhill. Yet, listening to the interview, you can’t tell that anyone was anything but fine. Humans are strong creatures. Entrepreneurs are stronger still.
The key for Team Parker in handling this challenging time has been communication and agreement. Communication about what’s happening, and agreement to who is now handling what. This lets us manage our expectations of each other, which is crucial, especially since it’s often just the two of us. We’ve discussed what we are and aren’t capable of taking on. Honestly confronting limitations, even temporary ones, is beyond important.
A national business training group recently asked us to deliver a series of marketing webinars. The folks in charge asked what, beyond our fee, we wanted to get from this. New clients for branding and marketing? Our answer was that our business presently lacks the bandwidth for new clients, but we’re happy to offer consulting. Why? Well, we didn’t tell them that. Let them think we’re too busy. But we’d agreed ahead of time that we can’t handle new clients right now. And that’s okay with both of us. It has to be.
At the end of the day, we know what’s most important: Us. That said, we never want to let a client down. That’s why we’re taking on only the projects we know we can deliver at a level that we feel good about and which keeps our clients thrilled. (For Slow Burn’s oldest and most demanding client, we just delivered a holiday ad that made them laugh and sign off with no changes. That’s a victory on any day, but especially now.) Even in the most challenging times, we continue to take satisfaction in ringing the bell. It’s a welcome break from the obstacles life has thrown in our way. And it reminds us who we are and why we do it.
BTW, my parents were a CoupleCo. We interviewed them in better days, and you can hear them in episode #38, "Sitcom Jewish Parents In Business."
Hope that helps
It works only if you take it.
Running your own business can seem non-stop. That’s why it’s important that when we stop, we truly do stop. And then, we have to make sure we take the time to connect over something completely non-work related.
How to do this? It’s pretty basic. Reach out. Hold each other’s hand. Even briefly. And remind yourselves that you’ve earned this time together. This time when you aren’t working. Try to be in the moment and acknowledge that you’re enjoying yourselves. Say it out loud. Really. Say something like, “I’m really enjoying this.” Actively recognize the down time, or it’s easy to gloss over, like it never happened.
Chip & Carol Bleam of Freedom Chiropractic (CoupleCo podcast episode #19) have a practice we love. They keep a jar that’s filled with popsicle sticks. Written on each stick is a different date night activity. Once a week, they go to the jar, pull out a stick, and whatever it says becomes their weekly date night.
Take the time to mentally log your downtime, and it will be there in your mind while you’re running your business. Then, you can clearly point to it, savor it, replay it, and enjoy the benefits of it. It’s important to be able to look at your life partner and see him or her as more than a work partner.
Hope that's helpful.
What you’re not good at can cost you big.
“Doctor heal thyself.” How many years have I been saying to Mr. Parker, “We should get someone to do the books”? Answer: Too many. Neither of us are that person. Yet, every year, he swears at QuickBooks and the tax receipts for a lot longer than a pro would have to. (*Assuming a pro swears at QB and receipts at all.) Bookkeeping takes him away from the things he’s great at, the things that can’t be delegated, that only he can do.
So, the cost of his time, plus the revenue that could have been generated by him creating product, is what that mistake costs us every year.
Tyler Sheff of The Cash Flow Guys (CoupleCo podcast episode #66) has said, “We don’t do what we’re not good at.” They hire people. It frees them up to do not only what they’re good at, but what they enjoy. Which means he and his business-partner wife Jill are happier at work.
Several couples we’ve interviewed, including Katy & Michael at Quarters Arcade Bar, talked about hiring someone for social media. And that was a hard one because the task seemed easy. But in practice, their efforts were often sporadic due to other pulls on their time, so their efforts weren’t successful.
Bottom line, every time we hand something off, we feel like we’ve given ourselves a present. I’d pick having someone handle our books over getting a free massage every month. Suzanne Phifer-Pavitt (Phifer Pavitt Wine, episode #52) say, “Surround yourself with really clever, talented people and amazing things happen.”
So, who are you surrounded by?
Hope that helps.
How do you take time off when it means both people in charge are gone at the same time?
Blaine and I have never said, “Gee, we need a vacation…you first.” Crazy but true, we like to vacation together…as do most couples in business together. But clearing the decks to make it happen is a challenge. And all too often, couples who don’t have someone to step in aren’t giving themselves the downtime together that’s required to recharge and remind themselves why they’re together in the first place. Not good.
Please, please, please, avoid the trap of saying, “We’ll take a great vacation next year.” It’s just too easy for next year to turn into the year after that and the year after that. Have you ever heard people say, “If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of other people?” Taking care of your union is as important as taking care of yourself.
Yes, getting away from work is work. But it’s a job worth taking on. I was inspired to write this blog entry when I saw a post from Cherie Ve Ard of Technomadia & the Mobile Internet Resource Center (episode #41, https://www.coupleco.com/technomadia-1.html ). She said that she and Chris worked around the clock for two weeks. Why? They bundled all the work that had to be done currently—as well as for a stretch of time after that—so they could enjoy taking time off for an upcoming visit from family.
That’s exactly how we play it. Blaine and I go over everything that might come up during our time away, then do it ahead of time. It does make for some long days. Then, once it’s done, we schedule its release throughout the time we’re away. Yes, we have had to put out unexpected fires while away, but we try to not get sucked back into the tap labeled, “Our Clients Need Us!”
It’s too easy for your marital relationship to turn into an officemates relationship. Part of the work of working together is creating time for not working together.
Hope that helps.
Is it a fine way to lose friends & family?
When a small business is looking for help, it’s so easy to turn to the people closest to us. A friend, a sibling, an old college roommate. But…are we talking about the best person for the job? That question doesn’t get asked nearly enough. What people do tend to focus on is, “Who’s close by?” Or, “I know So-And-So isn’t working right now.” Hey, your cousin may be the perfect person to do your books, but did you look around? Yes, it can work. Dale & Mark Shaw of Ultratech in Jacksonville Florida (episode #64 https://www.coupleco.com/ultratech-1.html ) hired their son to do the company’s marketing. And as people who’ve spent our careers in advertising, we think he’s doing an outstanding job.
Sadly, that seems to be an exception and not the rule.
Not only might your family member not do the job to the level you require, there’s every chance they’re going to dredge up old family issues and drama. If so, you’re going to face the unenviable task of figuring out how to let them go without causing a family feud. When it was time to take their business to the next level, Alicia & Oscar Gonzalez of The Media Relations Group in Miami (episode #62 https://www.coupleco.com/media-relations-group-miami-1.html) were faced with having to let family go. Unpleasant indeed. And it makes for a challenging Thanksgiving. Joseph & LeAnn Jackson of LeAnn’s Cheesecakes (episode #73 https://www.coupleco.com/leanns-cheesecakes-1.html ) learned the hard way after hiring a friend. They went through a tight financial patch, and hard feelings came into play. It was the end of a long friendship.
Bottom line, it’s like we all learned by watching The Godfather: “This is business. It’s not personal.” The problem is, as soon as you hire friends and family, it’s personal.
Hope that helps.
Is this phrase getting in the way of your progress?
It occasionally gets in the way of ours. In fact, “You’re not hearing me” is the phrase that finally kicked off our blog posting.
We’d repeatedly talked about blogging, but it just wasn’t happening. Why? Because any time I’d talk about my starting the blog, Mr. Parker would have objections and parameters. It turns out, the real challenge was twofold: 1) I wasn’t understanding what his points really were; 2) He wasn’t understanding what I wanted to blog about.
We finally sat down and calmly, academically, discussed it. What we really discussed was, “I don’t think you’re hearing me. Why not?” It came down to this: We often tell each other things while the other one is sitting at the computer. Sitting at the computer means split focus. And split focus is really no focus. Also, while we always assume we understand what the other one wants, we don’t confirm it and proceed with a misunderstanding.
The solution was sitting down, away from our computers, and discussing the blog. And something interesting happened. To make sure we were each “hearing” the other, we played back to each other what the other one had said. It sounds so simple. It’s also so easy to not take the time. But we took the time, and were able to come to an accord on how to move forward. And it happened in short order. Surprise bonus feature? We felt closer as a couple.
Hope that helps.
Are Blaine & Honey Parker Relationship Experts?
Hardly. And does the world really need more of those? Instead, we are a couple who have worked together for over 20 years. We've learned a few things along the way. And now, we're traveling the nation interviewing other couples in business together. Join us for the ups, downs, ins, outs, laughs, tears (even though Honey believes Blaine has no tear ducts), and the inevitable, practical insights into being a better couple--in life, business and everything.