My name is Megan Sockel, and have been married to my husband, Scott, for 11 years. We have 2 kids and have been running a business together for the past 12 years.
How can we possibly be together so much? So many of my friends have said to me they could never work with their spouse and they would drive each other crazy. That may be true in some cases. Being together ALL THE TIME is a unique lifestyle. I do know from my own experience that marriage is HARD. Additionally, having a business partner is also hard because you can’t just do what you want.
But, why is it so hard to be together all the time?! I think it comes down to being able to “let go”. Let me be clear, there is a term my 8-5 friends use called “Work Spouse”. These work spouses become their person you share with and vent to. And sometimes they vent to their work spouse about their real spouse. Work spouses becomes a voice of reason and a safe place to let go of frustrations so you do not take those feelings home. Some people use therapy for this, but work spouses are free. 🙂 But when the “work spouse” and the “real spouse” are the same person, you lose that safe place to vent and let go. That can be an obstacle or a blessing.
So how do Scott and I do it? Some days the answer is “I really do not know!” But on those other days, I cannot imagine it any other way. I may not have it all figured out, but here are 6 tips that make it work for us!
TIP 1: HAVE A STRONG BUSINESS PLAN
When I was first exploring how to start my photo business 13 years ago, I wrote a plan. This was before Scott was going to be my partner. I was going to create a wedding business. I had an edge because I knew how to write a business plan. In college, I had an entrepreneurial class and the main focus was on how to write a business plan. This class has been one of the best classes I have ever taken. For those reading this, you do not need to go back to college. But you should do some research. There are books and online resources out there to help you get started.
But a business plan is NOT some one-page outline or scribble on a napkin. It is a plan with mission statements, goals, finances for 3 years, competition—it is your work-bible. It will be a large project. But if you are not serious about your business then how do you expect others to be serious about you? So, do not be lazy. You build the plan. Find any red flags/issues that may come up. Fix them. Then follow the plan.
Why is this important for your marriage? Both partners need to know the plan so they can be on the same page. If you both know the goals of your business, it gives you the “why” and the “drive” you need to stay self-motivated. Without a plan, each of you may be thinking differently about how to run the business. And you probably will also end up with different goals for the business. This disconnect will cause conflict which will impact your marriage. You must be on the same page when it comes to the vision and running your business.
TIP 2: LEARN HOW TO COMMUNICATE EFFECTIVELY AND LOVINGLY
Everyone has a different style in communicating. So, please remember your partner’s style when having those hard conversations. I tend to keep it all in and Scott tends to let it all out. So, this tip has been something we continue to work on. But the key is to remember you LOVE your business partner. Treat them with love and respect. Also, be honest. You must give love and respect, even when it hurts. Honest conversations are hard. But you need to be honest about your feelings and issues and you need to communicate with love. On the flip side, if you are the one receiving the “honest love” really take a minute to set aside your pride and LISTEN to what your partner is saying. Again, it isn’t easy, but you do need to. Breathe in, then out, then gently and lovingly work together to resolve any conflicts. Remember, you are partners. The goal is to solve the problem together. Not break each other down.
TIP 3: TAKE A STAYCATION/BUSINESS MEETING
Send the kids to a sitter for a night or 2 and have a local, fun, overnight business meeting. Scott and I do this annually. We both come to the “meeting” with talking points we want to cover: Goals, business and marriage issues (Remember my tip about honesty? It usually happens here!), marketing ideas, and calendar booking. We have these chats throughout the day at various bars and restaurants that we love. We will take fun breaks throughout the day and go to a touristy area where we can walk around. Then, at night, we have a date. These staycations have been something we look forward to because it creates a safe place* that is a distraction free environment where we can chat about the business, get excited for the future and move forward. Do keep in mind, the number one rule of staycation is if/when the conversation gets too intense, the other person MUST stop their talking point and you both either take a break or change topics. It gives time for your partner to process. And it reinforces that the discussion can be a safe place* and it is just healthy for both of you.
(*Safe place: a place that you can have an honest, loving conversation without your partner confusing your words or turning them against you.)
TIP 4: DON’T KEEP SCORE AND KEEP MOVING FORWARD
In marriage, you are going to fight and disagree. With a business partner, you are going to fight and disagree. But do not sweat the small stuff. Your clients do not care if your spouse burned dinner or forgot your birthday. And really, neither should you. Most fights Scott and I have are ridiculous and if we kept score, we would get nothing done, business or otherwise. I am not saying ignore problems. I am saying CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES CAREFULLY. Is something REALLY worth it??? Most of the time, it is not.
TIP 5: DESIGNATE ROLES
This is one of the best pieces of advice I can offer. Scott and I used to do everything together: meetings, photo sessions, marking, design…everything…TOGETHER. And we were stepping on each other’s toes! It started to build negative feelings about our roles and EXPECTATIONS of each other in the business. So, at one of our staycations, we mapped out ALL of the duties of our business. We then mapped out what each of us loved doing. From there, we assigned jobs and roles within our business. Scott doesn’t do my roles and I do not do his. We offer help when asked but for the most part, we leave each other alone and trust that our spouse has got it. This has been amazing because now we are working parallel toward the end goal instead of constantly getting in each other’s way.
TIP 6: YOUR MARRIAGE AND FAMILY COME FIRST
This is harder to do than you may think. The business is what pays our bills so it is hard to say no to income. But we have had to say, “No.” before. And I will tell you, I have never regretted it. This tip is also necessary if you decide you cannot stay working together. Sometimes it doesn’t work and if you have to pick the business or your marriage…invest in your marriage. That may mean one of you needs to leave the business. This is OK. This decision is not a failure. You are succeeding by doing what is best for all. A true “Win-Win”.
A husband and wife team is a lifestyle and it is not for everyone. Fun fact: both Scott and I were raised by parents who are also husband and wife teams. Both sets of parents still work together and are still married. So, I think we do have an edge on knowing what skills it takes to hold it together. Having another couple as an example and also a sounding board is a great resource for success. If you are a husband and wife team, cheers to you! And if you are considering teaming up with your partner, please try it! The rewards are so worth all the work!