Lovin' IT: Amy & Elden Quesinberry of Layer 8 Consulting, Part 1
CoupleCo has talked to couples running what seem like romantic businesses: Wineries, breweries, food, photography, etc. Today, we’re looking at a couple running a tech business that might seem a little less romantic—but it’s the kind of business that is incredibly necessary and, in the digital age, pretty lucrative. It’s people like Elden and Amy who keep the world humming along at the speed of digital. Theirs is a story that answers an age-old question: What happens when you move into a new house with your wife and two toddlers, you have a couple of mortgages, and you suddenly lose your job? This is a story about having the courage to take the leap, including the courage that requires asking your wife to join you in a business that isn’t her dream. But then what happens when it becomes her baby? Or you decide to become a woman-owned business—only to find out that it just means a runaround without any actual benefit? And, we’re going to get some insanely simple advice for handling those occasional interpersonal, interspousal annoyances that pop up on the job.
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THE SHOW NOTES
Elden and Amy Quisenberry run the IT business Layer8 Consulting. When Elden was laid off after the dot-com bust, he had just moved his family into a new house and had a couple of mortgages. In order to survive financially, Elden took on some consulting work which grew into Layer8. Later, Elden asked Amy, to join the company and it surprised them both when it became her baby.
In this episode they talk about how Layer 8 started, why Amy loves her work, and the issues they faced in an effort to be classified as a “woman owned business.”
- Learning when to make independent decisions, and when to consult the other
- Managing work in the evenings and on vacation
- How working from home allowed them to be there for their kids
- How Amy and Elden met on a blind date (03:41)
- Their respective careers before starting Layer 8 (07:48)
- What led Elden to Starting Layer 8 and why he felt he could run a business (08:43)
- The services Layer 8 provides (10:59)
- How Amy joined the business and the difficulty of making that decision (12:28)
- How Amy’s role in the business grew and the business became her baby (14:27)
- How the company has grown over their years together (15:23)
- Why the company is called Layer8 (15:49)
- What Amy loves about her work (17:44)
- How they work together and how they make decisions together (18:39)
- How work is 24/7 and how they handle work when on vacation (21:38)
- The affect the business has had on their kids (24:40)
- The craziest things they see in their work (26:36)
- Why Elden likes working in the commercial sector (27:45)
- The challenge of trying to become a “woman owned business” (28:48)
- The importance of having a solid foundation when starting a business as a couple (31:35)
Layer 8 Consulting
Honey: 00:00 Are you really ready for me?
Blaine: 00:03 That's a loaded question?
Honey: 00:04 Are you ever ready for me?
Blaine: 00:06 Never.
Honey: 00:07 But isn't it nice?
Blaine: 00:08 Isn't what nice? That I'm never ready for you?
Honey: 00:10 Yeah.
Blaine: 00:11 I don't even understand what that means.
Honey: 00:13 Neither do I, but isn't it nice?
Blaine: 00:14 Welcome to the secret of our relationship.
Welcome to CoupleCo, working with your spouse for fun and profit.
Honey: 00:21 It's business and it's personal.
Blaine: 00:23 I'm Blaine Parker.
Honey: 00:23 Which makes me Honey Parker.
Blaine: 00:25 And as a couple in business, together, we are coming to you from the Couple Coach, our compact, transamerican land yacht.
Honey: 00:30 We're navigating the nation, boy we really are, in search of standout couples in business together.
Blaine: 00:35 And we're bringing them to you so you can hear their inspiring stories of crushing it in business without crushing each other.
Honey: 00:41 This show is also brought to you by a couple owned business.
Blaine: 00:45 Smokin' Mary, smoked Bloody Mary mix.
Honey: 00:47 Made in small batches with no reconstituted tomato juice, only fresh, whole, perky, happy, bouncy little tomatoes.
Blaine: 00:56 I think guys like bouncy tomatoes, don't they? Smokin' Mary's Smoked Bloody Mary mix. Hey, nice tomatoes. Online, at smokinmary.com. Are there any topics, issues or special interviews you think you need to hear on this show?
Honey: 01:10 If so, we wanna hear from you. Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blaine: 01:16 We are interested in any and all input from the CoupleCos who listen to this show, including you. So like the woman said, send an email to email@example.com.
So, CoupleCo has spent a lot of time talking to couples running what might seem like romantic businesses.
Honey: 01:33 Wineries, breweries, food, photography.
Blaine: 01:36 Today, we are looking at a couple who runs a tech business that might seem a little less romantic.
Honey: 01:40 But it's the kind of business that's incredibly necessary and, in the digital age, pretty lucrative.
Blaine: 01:46 It's people like Elden and Amy who keep the world humming along at the speed of digital with a network consulting company.
Honey: 01:52 Theirs is a story that answers the age old question.
Blaine: 01:55 What happens when you move into a new house with your wife and two toddlers, you have a couple of mortgages, and suddenly lose your job?
Honey: 02:04 This is the story about having the courage to take the leap.
Blaine: 02:07 Including the courage that requires asking your wife to join you in a business that is not her dream.
Honey: 02:12 But then, what happens when the business becomes her baby?
Blaine: 02:15 Or, you decide to become a woman-owned business?
Honey: 02:17 Only to find out that it just means a run around without an actual benefit.
Blaine: 02:21 And, we're going to get some insanely simple advice for handling those occasional interpersonal, inter spousal annoyances that pop up on the job. Here now, part one of our conversation with Elden and Amy Quesinberry of Layer8 Consulting in Westminster, Maryland.
Elden: 02:38 All right, cheers.
Blaine: 02:39 A toast.
Amy: 02:40 Yes, cheers.
Blaine: 02:41 We are busy, sitting down with and about to talk to Amy and Elden Quesinberry of Layer8 Consulting which sounds really, really official and dangerous.
Honey: 02:53 And we are in beautiful Westminster, Maryland.
Blaine: 02:56 Westminster, Maryland. Yes, do we consider this the Greater D.C. area?
Elden: 03:00 It could be.
Amy: 03:01 Greater Baltimore area.
Blaine: 03:02 Greater Baltimore area.
Elden: 03:04 Business-wise we call it mid-Atlantic.
Blaine: 03:06 Yes, mid-Atlantic.
Honey: 03:07 So is it Go Ravens?
Amy: 03:09 Go Ravens.
Honey: 03:10 Okay.
Blaine: 03:10 Yeah, all right, Go Ravens.
Amy: 03:12 Depends on the year.
Blaine: 03:14 We are drinking-
Honey: 03:14 Depends on the year.
Blaine: 03:17 ... a lovely ... I'm not going to mention the brand name. A lovely pinot noir because it's late in the afternoon but we still want something just a little bit light, because it is still summer, technically-
Honey: 03:26 And slightly muggy.
Blaine: 03:27 ... and slightly muggy and we've got business to conduct. We have what I consider to be the most important question in these interviews. How do you feel about it?
Honey: 03:35 I love it.
Blaine: 03:36 Yeah?
Honey: 03:36 Yeah, I do.
Blaine: 03:37 Does that mean you want to ask it?
Honey: 03:38 Sure. You usually ask it.
Blaine: 03:39 I do usually ask it.
Honey: 03:40 How did you guys meet?
Amy: 03:42 Blind date.
Blaine: 03:43 Blind date. Yay!
Honey: 03:46 My parents met on a blind date. Who set you up?
Elden: 03:48 There goes half the interview, by the way.
Amy: 03:51 Friends of ours. I worked with a lady named Mary and he was friends with her husband, Ray. And ...
Elden: 04:00 I stalked her.
Amy: 04:01 He stalked me.
Blaine: 04:02 Oh, another stalking case. We've had those before.
Honey: 04:05 Were you excited for the date or not excited.
Amy: 04:07 No.
Blaine: 04:08 Nobody wanted to go on this date.
Amy: 04:08 He did.
Elden: 04:11 This was back in the day before the internet and everything. So you had to get the introduction from the friends and all and I worked and finally got the intro and it was like, for me, another date. So all right, another opportunity, but she ended up trying to run away from me.
Blaine: 04:24 They do that.
Elden: 04:25 On the first date.
Honey: 04:26 What does that mean?
Amy: 04:26 Well, I delayed the meeting for several months.
Blaine: 04:30 Really.
Amy: 04:31 I wasn't really ready. I was at a point in my life where I didn't really want to date anybody and-
Blaine: 04:35 Wow.
Amy: 04:36 Yep, and then we had a mutual friend of the couple who fixed us up who was the messenger between us. And she's like, "Hey, Mary has this guy that wants to meet you." And I'm like, "Ugh" not ready for that.
Then she kept coming back and asking all these questions and I said, "Okay, where does he live?" She's like, "Carroll County." And I'm like "Probably not going to work out." I was in Baltimore County-
Elden: 05:06 That's horrible.
Amy: 05:07 ... and then I'm like, "What's his name?" And she said "Elden Quesinberry." And I'm like "Ugh, what does he do?" And she's like, "He repairs computer equipment." I'm like, "Probably not going to want to meet this guy."
Elden: 05:17 There's a picture.
Blaine: 05:17 Give this man some more wine.
Honey: 05:21 Little side note, there was a television show on HBO called The Wire, which was set in Maryland and one of the last jokes was somebody got demoted and sent to Carroll County.
Amy: 05:32 See?
Elden: 05:32 See?
Blaine: 05:35 They said in unison.
Amy: 05:36 So anyways, then he called me and I'm like, "How did you get my number?" And he said, "Well, Mary let your last name slip so I looked your phone number up." I'm like, "Okay, whatever." Then he proceeded to tell me what road I lived on and what kind of car I drove. And I'm like, "Um, Mary didn't know that information." And I guess I really don't want to say how you-
Elden: 05:57 I just found that through other sources.
Amy: 05:59 Right.
Elden: 06:00 IT wise.
Blaine: 06:00 I was just going to say through Information Technology sources, didn't you?
Amy: 06:00 Right, right. See, that creeped me out a little bit. I was like no.
Honey: 06:00 Right.
Amy: 06:07 He's like, "So do you want to meet?" I'm like, "No, I really don't." And then he said, "Well, how about if we get together with a bunch of people like Ray and Mary and all these people?" So I said okay. So that's how we met and we picked a date and we met.
Blaine: 06:21 I'm impressed because you did everything in your power to prevent this from happening.
Amy: 06:25 Yeah, and on the date, I actually left him and went somewhere else.
Blaine: 06:28 You didn't even know what she looked like or anything and you just ...
Amy: 06:32 He may have by the source. I'm not sure if [crosstalk 00:06:35].
Honey: 06:35 Aerial photography.
Elden: 06:37 Ray had seen her. No my friend Ray ...
Amy: 06:37 That would be an off the record [inaudible 00:06:41]
Elden: 06:41 That was the day before drones. But no, my friend Ray had seen her a while back.
Honey: 06:45 So on the date, you just left.
Amy: 06:47 Yeah.
Blaine: 06:49 Good for you.
Elden: 06:50 After 45 minutes, she goes, "We're out of here." So I'm like, "That didn't go well."
Amy: 06:55 Just not my type. And I really wasn't wanting to meet anyone. But then we went, my friend and I went somewhere else and then the next thing I know Elden is walking in-
Elden: 07:09 With Ray.
Amy: 07:09 ... to the next spot with Ray and Mary. And I'm like, "Oh my goodness." So several melon ball shooters later and-
Elden: 07:17 She couldn't get rid of me then.
Amy: 07:17 I couldn't get rid of him then.
Honey: 07:20 That's all it takes for romance is some melon ball shooters.
Elden: 07:23 She didn't want to get rid of me then.
Amy: 07:23 Right.
Honey: 07:24 Is that part of Cinderella, happily ever after, melon ball shooters.
Elden: 07:29 [inaudible 00:07:29] left that part out.
Blaine: 07:30 Just for the record, I need to point out that it's not like this is something that just happened. We're talking about how many kids and how many years in business later? Right now?
Amy: 07:38 So we met in 1992 so two kids later and we've been in business together-
Elden: 07:44 For 26 years.
Blaine: 07:46 I guess this takes us ... We should do the fast forward now to Layer8.
Amy: 07:50 Yes.
Blaine: 07:51 How did this happen? How do Elden and Amy decide that they need to go into business together.
Honey: 07:56 Because you didn't want to date him. Then you like, "Okay, I'll date him."
Blaine: 08:00 Melon shooters will take care of that.
Amy: 08:02 The more I dated him, he's my opposite. So there were a lot of things that he opened me up to and we balanced each other out and we complemented each other and got along really well.
Blaine: 08:13 So Ying and Yang.
Amy: 08:14 Absolutely. And it just works.
Honey: 08:17 So you get married.
Amy: 08:19 Right. I was in the mortgage business and then when we had our children, I stayed at home with them and raised them. Then he was in the business for different companies, working for different companies and-
Elden: 08:31 Yeah, I bounced around through a number of boutique consulting companies and all consultant network security guide, became a manager and then got laid off in the dot com bust in '02. And then just thought, "Now what am I going to do?" We just moved here to where we are in our home, two toddlers, and I thought this is the worst day of my life.
Blaine: 08:53 Oh man.
Honey: 08:53 That's a great time to be out of work.
Elden: 08:53 Yeah, exactly. Dot com bust in the industry, double, triple home mortgage and two toddlers to feed. This is lovely. But we had a project still going at a client, big project so I just said, I'll contract back as a contractor and land this project and then that's what I did. And I thought, "Well, I can do this." So I just grabbed two guys that worked for me, one guy that I had worked for, and we started a company and it was actually called RPM Consulting Partners and then that's how we took off and we went three years that way. Built it up a little bit and then little by little, one fellow, he went to work for a large organization in the area and the other two guys, they just wanted to be consultants and techies.
Amy: 09:41 Not business owners.
Elden: 09:42 So I wanted to buy them out. The company and everything. So actually when the first fellow left we had to change the name of the company because he owned the domain and everything.
Amy: 09:52 Yeah.
Honey: 09:52 So before all this happened and it doesn't sound like you had been on a path to owning your own business before the dot com bust, did you ever feel like you were that person, that you were a business owner, or did you always feel like you were happy to work for somebody else?
Elden: 10:08 I always knew that I could run a business or be an executive in a business if it was something that I believed in or something that I could do and not just working at some company that maybe I was just marginally interested in.
Blaine: 10:23 Any idea what the basis was for this feeling? Did your parents have a business?
Elden: 10:26 No.
Blaine: 10:27 You just knew, in your bones.
Elden: 10:29 Yeah. And I'm not a sales person, I'm a techie by trade, but yeah, after ... and I guess it was just through years of customer service and believe it or not I was kind of a shy kid, but years of customer service under the most stressful situations, big companies, payroll's down, they're losing thousands or millions of dollars per hours because your machine or something network is down. So learned to deal with that and make the best of it.
Honey: 10:59 Wow.
Blaine: 11:00 I think we should probably ask you, Elden, to explain what it is you actually do. IT consulting for some people, we get it.
Honey: 11:09 You could actually, and it could mean a lot of different things.
Blaine: 11:11 Especially when you're your own IT manager, like some small business people are, like us. But what is ... what does an IT consultant's job consist of?
Honey: 11:22 In your company?
Elden: 11:23 For us, as Layer8, it's network engineering and security, IT security, so that could mean, transport, routing, switching, wireless, infrastructure type things and then security being protection from the internet, secure remote access, written policies and procedures. I'm probably ...
Amy: 11:50 Data center design.
Elden: 11:51 Building data centers, server rooms, helping MNA, merger and acquisitions type work where companies come together in dissimilar networks, we blend them in and make them talk. But we do not do, for the most part, the end computer/PC type work.
Amy: 12:09 Right.
Blaine: 12:10 So you don't deal with things at the terminal. You just deal with everything that goes into the terminal?
Elden: 12:14 You could think of the highways, highways and roads and traffic cops along those roads and inspection points.
Blaine: 12:21 You don't deal with the cars.
Elden: 12:23 We don't deal with the cars.
Honey: 12:25 Cars [inaudible 00:12:26] getting into trouble.
Elden: 12:26 Yeah.
Blaine: 12:28 Okay, so you've been doing this for a while.
Honey: 12:31 Then at some point-
Blaine: 12:33 Amy's brought into the business.
Elden: 12:35 It was when I went to buy out my remaining two partners, the techies, I needed money, right? Capital, so-
Blaine: 12:42 Amy's piggy bank.
Amy: 12:42 Which you could have done but he came to me and said, "I'd like to buy out the other partners, and I need help with the books. Do you think you could help me with the books?" That's how it started.
Elden: 12:54 Yeah the other two partners, I was buying them out from a technical standpoint, taking the domain-
Amy: 12:59 They remained on as employees.
Elden: 13:01 Parts of the company but then also I had two individuals that were part-time helping me with accounting and they wanted to go back to their regular jobs. One was Rob's wife, one of my original partners and she was into other things, and then Sharon had her fourth or fifth child and wanted to go back to that, so I needed accounting help, so-
Amy: 13:26 Which I had never done before.
Honey: 13:27 So was it harder to pursue you for the business than I was to go on a date?
Elden: 13:32 Oh, no.
Amy: 13:33 Well it was scary though. When he approached me, my immediate thought was, "Wow, I don't know. I don't know if this is a good move for us as a couple. I don't know. We have such a good marriage. We live together. Now we're going to be working together? I don't know how that's going to work."
Honey: 13:49 Did you know other couples that worked together?
Amy: 13:50 No.
Blaine: 13:51 And you didn't have any family who was modeling this for you, mom and dad weren't-
Honey: 13:55 So there was nobody to tap on the shoulder and say "How do you make this work?"
Amy: 13:55 No.
Blaine: 13:59 No?
Amy: 13:59 It was very scary.
Elden: 14:01 It was very scary. That's known in the industry as winging it.
Amy: 14:05 It was very scary. We decided to wing it and it ended up being-
Elden: 14:10 Well, it was easy for me, right? You come in and say it didn't work out for you for whatever reason, we didn't work well, whatever, I would have just had to hire a bookkeeper accounting person. To me it was a simple as that.
Blaine: 14:24 And think of all the joy you would have missed out on.
Amy: 14:26 Right.
Honey: 14:28 So you come in. You start doing the work. Obviously, something works because you stayed and took on more.
Amy: 14:35 Right. Yeah, definitely grown in the company, taken a lot of responsibility, I handle all HR, accounts payable, accounts receivable, quoting-
Blaine: 14:46 Is it getting scarier as all this snowballs?
Amy: 14:48 No, it isn't. I'm getting more confident and I really enjoy it. I like it. There's been some talks in the past about maybe the possibility of pursuing someone to purchase our company and retiring and whatnot and I'm like, "No" because like I told you before, this wasn't my dream.
Layer8 was not my dream. But now it's my baby. It our baby.
Elden: 15:14 Yeah.
Amy: 15:14 I kinda adopted it and our guys, we're a family. Our employees are family members and I just love it.
Honey: 15:22 And how big is the company?
Amy: 15:24 It's small. We have ... well now we have seven full-time employees, including Elden and I. One is a sales person who we just hired that started. Our very first ever salesperson.
Elden: 15:36 That is scary for me, but ... And then we have what, three, four contractors some full-time, some part-time, say 10, 11.
Amy: 15:44 Then we have some contractors that we use. We're small. We fluctuated. We've been bigger, we've been smaller.
Blaine: 15:49 What does Layer8 actually mean?
Elden: 15:55 It's a techie thing and especially to network engineering techs. There's and industry standard model called the OSI model. We won't get into what all that stands for, but basically layer one is the wire, the copper wire, the transport and then it goes all the way up through the different layers to layer seven, which is the application or software level if you will. So we just thought, well, after picking some ... I should go back a step.
So my two remaining partners and I, we had to change the name, new domain, everything of the company. So we were trying to pick names and we were out one night, at a brewery, and we just had some God awful names-
Blaine: 15:55 At a brewery that's where the best names happen, always.
Honey: 15:55 Can you remember some of the good bad names?
Elden: 16:41 Something was maybe entropy or something.
Blaine: 16:45 Oh, any company that uses the word entropy in their name is going to win big.
Elden: 16:48 Someone suggested that and I looked it up and said, "What were you thinking?" I actually still have the piece of craft paper that covered the table and us scribbling all over it. I have that in the files in there.
Honey: 16:59 Who had a bad name? We spoke to a couple recently-
Blaine: 17:01 It was for a boat. This guy is a-
Honey: 17:04 Oh it was for a boat, that's right.
Blaine: 17:04 ... a PhD in oncology. He's a consulting oncologist to pharmaceutical companies and in the bar they were trying to name the boat and someone came up with the name Metasta Seas. S-E-A-S.
Amy: 17:17 Oh no.
Blaine: 17:17 And they were all like, "Yeah, this is the name!"
Honey: 17:18 We're brilliant.
Blaine: 17:19 And of course they were woke up-
Honey: 17:21 And they woke up the next morning and-
Blaine: 17:21 ... Like, no.
Amy: 17:24 Yeah, no, that wouldn't be good.
Blaine: 17:24 Anyway, Layer8 ...
Elden: 17:26 We came up with that so we thought we'd be the layer eight behind the top of layer one through seven OSI model.
Blaine: 17:33 So Layer8 is about the people.
Elden: 17:35 People, users, and then in our minds, support.
Blaine: 17:38 There are professionals who could not come up with a better name than that. So the reason I think this is germane is because, Amy, you're getting deep into this and the more you do it, the more you're loving it and the more you're loving it because you're working with people?
Amy: 17:50 I just love that I can work from home. My schedule's flexible. I can't say I love the human resources part of it as far as the benefits and all that, but there's some clients that I interact with that I really enjoy working with. I love all of our employees. They're great.
I really like the whole putting together ... Some of our consultants will create a bill of materials for our new equipment for a customer and I really like going out and pricing that and then quoting, just take care of all that. Outside of the company. I work more with distributors and brokers for insurances-
Elden: 18:25 Vendors.
Amy: 18:26 Vendors.
Elden: 18:26 And the employees, internal employees.
Amy: 18:28 And the employees and the clients I don't have too much interaction with clients other than "here's your invoice."
Honey: 18:36 That's a good interaction.
Amy: 18:37 Yeah.
Blaine: 18:38 How do you two work together.
Honey: 18:39 We should point out that a lot of people work out of the house and work in different offices.
Blaine: 18:45 Oh yeah.
Honey: 18:45 Their desks are right next to each other in the same room.
Blaine: 18:48 Yeah, you go look at our Facebook page. There's going to be a photograph of those two desks sitting at 90 degree angle and they could back into each other.
Honey: 18:55 I mean, it's a big room, but it's one room.
Amy: 18:57 It's hard. Elden used to be out in the field a little more than he is now. He works from home a lot more now, though he's on the phone a lot. And my job, I have to print or scan and the printer makes noises and then if he's on the phone, I have to wait until he gets off the phone to print or whatever, so I'm like just sitting there tapping my-
Elden: 19:17 So here's how it works. She's ... after two or three days, she goes, "Don't you have some meetings or somewhere to go on site soon?"
Amy: 19:24 Don't you need to go visit so and so?
Honey: 19:27 When we shared, because we did share an office space for a little bit in Los Angeles, and I'm a sound person, sounds make me crazy. And this sound of how Blaine types makes me insane. He hits the keys too hard and he hits them in a flurry and stops. And flurry and stops. And flurry and stops.
When we spoke to Rebecca and Matt Titus who were in Maryland. They run Blackburg Crossfit. When they started working together in the same space, the sound of him eating.
Blaine: 20:03 I've got a question. Why is he eating in the office?
Honey: 20:06 Everyone has to eat.
Elden: 20:07 Oh that happens.
Honey: 20:09 Absolutely. So that's how you share the space. You're clearly doing different things in the office at work. How do you make decisions together?
Amy: 20:17 We discuss it and bounce it off each other. Neither one of us make a decision without the other one's input.
Honey: 20:24 Yeah.
Elden: 20:25 After working together for so long, we each have our own domain. Obviously I'm the technical side, she's back office.
Honey: 20:31 Obviously your desk is on the left and hers is on the right. Clearly you have two completely different sides of the business.
Elden: 20:37 Exactly. But after working together I know that she can read NDAs and all that and I'm comfortable with her reviewing and without even me signing it and sending it back.
But then you learn not to play in each other's space or if you do, consult each other. So if she's not in the office and I prepare a contract to be sent out to a client, I'm like, "Yeah, you need to review this" or something like that.
Amy: 21:04 Right. And the books, he keeps his hand out of the books.
Honey: 21:07 So you never felt like he was looking over your shoulder even though you came into the business he had started.
Faces, we're seeing all sorts of faces. Elden is laughing.
Amy: 21:17 So yes, because this was Elden's baby. There was some looking over my shoulder in the beginning but I think now and for quite a few years, we've been pretty independent thinkers.
I mean we work together and we make decisions together, but I do my thing and he does ... and he trusts me, I trust him. So it's good.
Blaine: 21:39 This is an odd question to be asking people whose office is in the house, but I'm gonna. I think the answer to the question tells you where the boundaries are. Do you bring work home with you at night?
Amy: 21:48 It's always 24/7. A lot of times our conversations are about work. There's other things to talk about but it always comes back to that. That just seems to be a normal for us, is to talk about work. Like, "Oh, hey, by the way," It could be 10:00 at night. "By the way, did you hear from so and so about this?" Which is double-edged because it's good that we have access to each other 24/7 and can talk about stuff like that, but it's also okay work ended, supposed to end at 5:00, which it really never does.
Elden: 22:20 It's minimal though.
Amy: 22:20 It's minimal but ...
Elden: 22:23 And we've learned. If we go out to dinner, there might be some portion, usually in the beginning of just making sure everything is done for the day or the coming next day, and then that's it. There's no more of that.
Honey: 22:34 Yeah, but when you take a vacation can you not talk about work or does it still pop up?
Elden: 22:40 It's getting easier and easier every year. Obviously, when I first went away, it was myself and another guy so I had to still actually work when I was on vacation.
Amy: 22:51 Which we still do on vacation. In the mornings it's-
Elden: 22:52 But now, as they say, we have people.
Amy: 22:55 Well we have people but in the mornings, you get up, check your emails, if there's issues you've gotta take care of it and all of that.
Elden: 23:01 I think that's a personal preference. I just don't want to come back from vacation with 5,000 emails and all that. I'd rather spend 45 minutes every day, get it out of the way. And then I'm at the beach or wherever I'm at.
Honey: 23:13 We do the same thing. If you follow us on Facebook or Instagram, you see us in a lot of different places, and it's very easy for somebody to say, "Oh my gosh, your life is just travel and wonderfulness." No, you decide if you have this long day of fill in the blank that you get up earlier, you get all those things done. You put out fires before they start so you can have a clear enough head so you know your clients are taken care of and then you go do that really fun thing. That's the only thing you post about.
I always tell people well nobody wants to see me post about and then Blaine wrote some more. Then I made a logo smaller. That's not exciting posting.
Blaine: 23:53 Yeah, we actually ran the business for a month from Nicaragua and the only thing that people saw was the fun stuff. What good is it showing people here we are sitting in our VRBO condo writing more copy.
Honey: 24:07 And we were at Jazz Fest. We went to Jazz Fest every single day but we got up well before Jazz Fest and took care of stuff. And I was on my way to the fairgrounds and we got a message from a client that something was incorrect and Blaine kept going to the fairgrounds, to Jazz Fest and I went back and went back to work.
Blaine: 24:26 There was certainly nothing that I was going to do about it.
Honey: 24:26 Had to happen. But anyway, so ...
Blaine: 24:30 Is there any place you do not talk about work?
Honey: 24:33 Don't want to know. That's enough. That's enough.
Blaine: 24:36 Okay. That look on Amy's face says enough. How old are your kids?
Amy: 24:41 21 and 22.
Blaine: 24:42 21 and 22. How did having mom and dad in business together in the house affect the kids?
Amy: 24:49 I think it was a positive effect. I think we were here. We were flexible so when they were in high school and had high school sports, we were able to attend all of that. We didn't have to miss anything. Or if one of us did, the other one was there and just being able to be here was very important through all of that. They also worked for us [crosstalk 00:25:11]
Elden: 25:12 When they got older. We just had to train them when they were younger not to come bursting in the door.
Amy: 25:15 That was probably the hardest part.
Elden: 25:17 I'm home. I'm on a conference call.
Amy: 25:21 Or you hear things slamming or they start bickering and it's just hard.
Elden: 25:24 Loud burping in the background.
Honey: 25:27 Yeah, we've dealt with people in the background. You hear ...
Amy: 25:33 Right.
Blaine: 25:34 Has it given them any entrepreneurial sensibilities do you think? Or had it made them say no way in heck I'm ever going to-
Elden: 25:41 If nothing else, they realize that working remote is pretty easy and pretty desirable. Like Taylor in the accounting industry sees it's like if she can remote connect somewhere and do work, well both of them, actually see that.
Honey: 25:55 For people who have only ever worked in somebody else's space, I don't think you get what it means to be able to say, you know, I'm going to get up, I'm going to work earlier but then I'm going to take a break and go to the kids' game or I'm going to fill in the blank. But you get to choose. Yeah, I'm going to do this a 9:00 at night so I can do this other thing that I really want to do that matters during the day.
Elden: 26:20 I think they learned a discipline from that, too. Like getting up early or doing something so that you can do those other things and not having barking dogs and burping kids in the background.
Honey: 26:33 Your kids are bubbly.
Blaine: 26:36 So what's the craziest thing that's ever happened on the job for you two?
Elden: 26:43 You know, IT and network engineering and all that stuff, people say that's boring but yeah, you run into some things. Because a lot of our work ... We do a lot of planning and prep and some things we can do during the day, but there are other times that most of the major changes have to happen off hours so we don't disrupt business and users and all that. So there's all kinds of working with clients and maybe some of the staff just had a few beers at dinner before the change that evening and if it's a long weekend building a data center thing there was some parties and liberties taken and things like that. And things in server rooms that you wouldn't think would go on, go on. So I'll leave my part at that.
Amy: 27:32 Not that we've done anything like that-
Honey: 27:32 No, no. Abs not.
Amy: 27:32 ... in the server room or anything.
Honey: 27:32 We could tell.
Blaine: 27:36 So things here at the house remain on an even keel for the most part.
Amy: 27:42 Very even, I think.
Elden: 27:42 Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's pretty boring.
Amy: 27:42 It is pretty boring.
Honey: 27:45 I was just curious because you're talking about having to work at night and security and all of that. The proximity to Washington, are you dealing with those kind of companies? Government companies?
Elden: 27:59 Not so much. We only have one larger federal client. A few state contracts we support, but it's mostly the commercial world. That was by choice. I like that. Because I worked for another company for 17 years when I first started large company, defense contractor and I saw the inside of the federal workplace. Nothing against it but it was just a long sales cycle, very political. Let's have a meeting to have a meeting to see when we can have the next meeting kind of thing and I'm not like that. I like direct interaction with CIO/CTO/Director somebody, you guys sound good. I have this need. You can do that. Call me next week. Let's get started.
Blaine: 28:44 You want to work with people who get stuff done.
Elden: 28:46 I thrive on that. I like that, yes.
Amy: 28:47 Absolutely.
Honey: 28:48 Can get stuff done. Amy when we talked to you on the phone, we were talking about being a woman owned business.
Amy: 28:54 Yes.
Honey: 28:54 Which has not all the pluses that it should have for you guys.
Amy: 28:59 And only because I'm not technical.
Honey: 29:01 Right.
Amy: 29:01 If I were technical, we could enter that government zone and [inaudible 00:29:08]
Honey: 29:08 I thought it was an interesting rule that I wasn't aware of-
Amy: 29:11 In the state of Maryland.
Honey: 29:11 Because we're a woman owned business but I didn't realize that there were restrictions.
Amy: 29:17 It's really tough in the state of Maryland. We went through it. I applied shortly after I bought into the company probably like a year or two, though.
Elden: 29:24 We didn't start out that way because as you bought in, people knew us anyhow as the owners of the company whether it was-
Amy: 29:31 It wasn't our intent to be well known, to go after government business. It happened by accident with the buy-in. It just happened that I ended up buying more shares.
Elden: 29:41 Right to financially, mathematically, to buy out the partners, but as soon as someone found out you were like that, they were like, "Why don't you do this? Why don't you become this?"
Amy: 29:51 Right. And if you could this [crosstalk 00:29:53]
Elden: 29:52 If you can do that, I can buy from you immediately.
Amy: 29:55 So I tried. So I applied and it was a very long, lengthy application, interview process. And then I was called down to Department of Transportation down by the airport. Sat before a board of probably, I want to say there were probably 12 or 13 people there. They asked me one question which was, "Can you go out and do the job? Can you go out and configure a network?" And I said, no, but I've got people who can.
Shortly after that, I mean the meeting was over and shortly after that we received a 15 page rejection letter.
Blaine: 30:34 Wow.
Amy: 30:34 Yeah and one of the main problems was, number one, I'm not technical and number two, my spouse who's my business partner is technical. So to get the woman owned minority status, they felt that Elden was really the key person, not me.
Blaine: 30:53 I was going to say, you could have been a single woman who had an idea, bankrolled the whole thing, started the company, hired this great looking guy next to you who was not your spouse-
Amy: 30:53 Absolutely.
Elden: 30:53 Thank you.
Blaine: 31:04 ... and been rejected.
Amy: 31:06 If I couldn't go out and do that job, no.
Elden: 31:09 Well, yes, he's correct.
Amy: 31:10 Right, right.
Blaine: 31:11 That's crazy.
Amy: 31:12 Yeah.
Elden: 31:13 They're very stringent. As it should be because there is a lot of companies, male owned, oh here's my wife and put her out front and try to score the MBE entitlement, which is wrong.
Amy: 31:26 It's pretty strict in the state of Maryland. I don't know if it's like that elsewhere, but definitely in the state of Maryland.
Honey: 31:31 I just thought that was interesting because I had not heard that.
Blaine: 31:35 So what do you think as a couple working together, what is a pitfall to avoid as a couple working together?
Elden: 31:44 For other couples thinking about working together?
Blaine: 31:47 Sure, why not?
Honey: 31:48 Or other couples in it going let's see if they can figure out what we're doing wrong?
Elden: 31:53 I wold say, first off you'd better be solid as a couple and for us it worked out. I don't know, I hate to say the word natural, but we were best friends, I'm making sure she's nodding.
Blaine: 32:10 She's smiling and her eyes are alight.
Honey: 32:12 Confirmation nodding yes.
Elden: 32:13 Yeah, so we were best friends. So it was easy. But yeah, I can see other couples that were, I hate to say regular couple status or maybe aren't as tight or whatever as a couple couple starting into business and man that's like building a house and the foundation's so so, you know?
Blaine: 32:32 Yeah.
Amy: 32:32 Right.
Elden: 32:33 You can maybe make it but with the stronger foundation you're much likely more to succeed.
Blaine: 32:39 Concrete instead of sand, please.
Elden: 32:42 Yeah.
Amy: 32:43 And I think, too, just to add to that. I think for me, you have to let things go. We've all worked with people that maybe one day made us angry or got on our nerves or annoyed us in some way, or whatever. But you can leave that, go home and recoup, come back and everything's okay. But when you're married to someone that you own a company with and they annoy you or make you angry-
Honey: 33:14 Right.
Blaine: 33:14 We'd know nothing about that.
Amy: 33:14 And then you have to sit at the dinner table across from that person and have dinner and then you go to bed with that person and you're turning out the lights and you have to let it go.
Elden: 33:23 Or call them out right away and say-
Amy: 33:26 Or call them out and get it out right away.
Elden: 33:27 Look butt head you said this and didn't make me happy and talk about it and get it over with.
Amy: 33:31 Right. And I think that's pretty important.
Blaine: 33:35 It's also surprising how well that works. Because a lot of people-
Elden: 33:35 Communication?
Blaine: 33:41 Yeah. They want to sit there and they want to hold on to that thing and let it fester and ...
Amy: 33:45 And neither one of us are like that.
Honey: 33:47 The second you deal with it.
Amy: 33:48 Yeah.
Honey: 33:48 And that's absolutely what we've found and I'm definitely the kind of person who ... I'll clam up and walk out of the room.
Amy: 33:57 That's me.
Honey: 33:58 But I'm much better off if I can breathe and we just deal with it. And also, I mean, there are things that ... there's this familiarity that almost makes it okay to say things that you wouldn't say to someone-
Amy: 33:58 Right. Absolutely.
Elden: 33:58 Oh yeah.
Amy: 33:58 And I have.
Elden: 34:19 As clearly and quickly as you would to someone else.
Honey: 34:19 We absolutely done that.
Blaine: 34:19 You're a butt head.
Honey: 34:23 Partnered in advertising for year with other people, then we partnered together and-
Blaine: 34:30 She hated me immediately.
Honey: 34:30 ... my vocabulary changed.
Blaine: 34:37 This has been part one of our conversation with Elden and Amy Quesinberry of Layer8 Consulting in Westminster, Maryland.
Honey: 34:43 If you've enjoyed this podcast and you think it would be useful or fun or other couple entrepreneurs, please go to iTunes and leave a star rating and a review to help them find it.
Blaine: 34:52 And join us next time when we return to Westminster to finish our conversation with Amy and Elden.
Honey: 34:57 We learn about a business philosophy that treats employees like family.
Blaine: 35:01 But why on Earth, would you interview a job candidate's spouse?
Honey: 35:05 And what happens when you think your spouse is capable of doing something in the business-
Blaine: 35:10 But they adamantly do not want to do it? Next time, here on CoupleCo Working With Your Spouse for Fun and Profit.
Honey: 35:17 Copyright 2018, All rights reserved.
Blaine: 35:19 Love you, baby.
Honey: 35:20 Love you, too.
Blaine: 35:21 CoupleCo out.