Together at Work and at Home

Photo Of Jamie Braddy And Her Husband Shaun
The author and her husband, Shaun.

Running a pool and spa company is hard. And it’s especially hard when you’re running a company with a loved one.

Not only is it hard from a business perspective, it can be hard on your employees, your children and, more than anything, your marriage. I’ve heard a lot of stories — some couples have said running a pool company together ended their marriage while others learned they couldn’t work together, forcing one spouse to get another job.

I know how hard it can be because I also work with my spouse. My husband, Shaun, and I started on the road of entrepreneurship eight years ago. We both had “regular” jobs — “regular” in that we actually received a paycheck on a steady basis. When he suggested we launch a business — that we do something we love together and get paid for it, it seemed like a great idea. But as so many others in the pool and spa industry have come to understand, it’s more challenging than it seems.

While we weren’t initially prepared for what we were getting ourselves into, these are just some of the lessons we’ve learned to help keep us together.

1. Agree on specific managerial responsibilities.

When we first began our business, both Shaun and I did everything. Whatever he dropped, I handled, and vice-versa. However, as the company grew, that became harder. We not only managed ourselves, but also our staff.

Here’s my suggestion: Take an inventory of your daily tasks, then rank the items in order from your favorite items to your least favorite. Delegate the portions of your business you hate to your spouse or to your staff. If you both hate the same things, then hire someone else to do them. If you both hate handling the money, you better find a good CPA to steer you in the right direction.

It’s also important to remember that your employees need firm, consistent direction, despite the fact that you and your spouse may disagree. Work decisions out between you, and once they are resolved, no matter whose idea was chosen, back each other up. If you don’t already have job descriptions for you and your spouse, add it to your to-do list. Your life will be easier when you and your staff have a clear path to follow.

2. Make sure one person handles the money.

Money is the No. 1 reason most couples get divorced. I would say it’s also the biggest disagreement between couples that run a business together. When you have tens of thousands in bills a month and hundreds of thousands in early buys, there is no room for two people. One person should handle all of it. Decide today who that will be and the other must keep their hands off.

3. Know when to leave it at work.

As entrepreneurs, our life is our business. It seems impossible to shut it off and go home, but your family desperately needs you to — even if they don’t say so. You have the power to set the tone in your household just like you do at work. Make a resolution for a week to leave your work life at the front door and see how much better you feel at the end of the week. Your family will thank you.

4. Respect each other’s differences.

Shaun and I could not be more different. It’s amazing we can even coexist! I love to multitask: I usually have a minimum of eight browsers open on my computer, I read four to five books at a time, I wash clothes while I cook and I tend to cook several meals at one time when they include the same ingredients. My husband, on the other hand, is slow and methodical — he moves at the same rate as cold molasses. He is a perfectionist and pays close attention to detail, whereas I’m more of a “is it good enough?” kind of person.

However, it works for us. I see the forest and he sees the trees, and you need that to run a business. One person is the long-term planner and the other pays attention to detail. If you appreciate each other’s differences, you’ll see your spouse in a whole new light.

5. Grow together.

Marriages go through many stages throughout the years. There is evidence that the most difficult years of marriage are years 3, 7, 12 and 20, due to regular life changes such as children, midlife crises, etc. Whatever the reason, people change and grow. Their ideas of what they want out of life evolve. Make sure to spend time together doing what the two of you love to do.

For Shaun and me, it’s traveling. We love new experiences, and traveling to foreign countries together creates a bond between us. Find something outside work that you and your spouse enjoy, even if it is something simple like walking together in the evening.

6. Share the vision.

It’s essential for both partners to have a firm vision of where you want to take the company and where you want to be in 10 or 20 years. If one of you is happy working out of the back of a truck while the other has dreams of multiple storefront locations, you are destined for problems. Have a meeting and discuss where you want to be in five years and 10 years, and then list the items you need to accomplish to make that happen. And put a timeline to those items.

If you have already been in the business for a long time, you may also want to discuss how each of you sees the exit strategy. Do you wish to sell or pass it on to family? If you wish to sell, you’ll need to plan on making your company more marketable, so start planning ahead for how you can do that as well.

There are a lot of ups and downs in the pool industry. There are learning curves, good days and bad days. I think it’s harder when you’re married to your business partner, but by staying open to each other’s ideas, communicating and, sometimes, simply agreeing to disagree, it’ll be smoother sailing through your shared career instead of choppy waters.

Comments or thoughts on this article? Please e-mail [email protected].

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