At the core of the Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO)'s mission is an enduring commitment to helping entrepreneurs at every stage learn and grow to new levels of leadership. On Valentine's Day, we asked EO members to share their experiences around working with a spouse or life partner, focusing on the benefits, lessons learned and what they wish they'd known before embarking on this partnership of all partnerships. Here's what they shared.
"Please, please, please: Don't go into business with anyone--much less a life partner--if you don't share values and vision. Do you share the same purpose and direction for the business? Do your values mostly intersect? A few other questions may quickly assess whether your life partner will be a good business partner: Do you disagree a lot as a couple? Is it difficult to agree on decisions, big or small? If so, it may not be a good idea to go into business together. On the other hand: Do you share a mutual, foundational respect for each other's individuality? Can you say that ego is not central to how you interact? If yes, you might be well-suited to it. Either way, listen to that little voice in the back of your head. It will most certainly haunt you if you don't!"
? Talie Smith, EO Portland, Co-founder and Creative Director, Smith + Connors
"As with many entrepreneurs, the business is intertwined with our daily lives and our family's livelihood. Working with my wife, Aspen, brings a new level of understanding and transparency to the business and how it impacts us as individuals. We understand what sacrifices need to be made at home so the other person could tackle a significant business challenge. It brought us closer together as a team, with the flexibility to make our own schedules without worrying about whether 'work' would give us the time off."
? Glenn Grant, EO Boston, Founder, Self Assembled Ventures
"The biggest lesson we have learned is that when working together, we cannot do the same role. In our organization, Al handles sales, and I handle support. It reduces disagreements and also makes sure all areas of the business get equal attention. We call it 'divide and conquer'."
? Jessica Fialkovich, EO Colorado, Co-founder, Transworld Business Advisors
"We are the definition of yin and yang. I am the positive dreamer who believes everything is possible, and we should do it all now. My wife, Shilpa, is the realist who considers the hurdles and challenges we may face with each decision. We work amazingly well together because her strengths are my weaknesses and vice versa. Between the two of us, we cover all aspects of running a business successfully."
? Vinayak Mahtani, EO UAE, Founder, Unique Precise International
"Working toward a common goal together is fulfilling and motivating. It also creates a strong sense of partnership in both life and work. The biggest surprise was how our different strengths made us stronger as a couple. We look at a scenario from different angles--not always in agreement--which enables us to overcome blind spots."
? Katty Douraghy, EO San Francisco, President, Artisan Creative
"With three kids, we're often neck-deep in parenting logistics. It's great to see Liz being herself and thriving outside of 'Mum mode'. I truly appreciate her business acumen and professionalism. Also, it's critical to set boundaries around work and family time: We have learned the hard way that we cannot continue work discussions at home. It's a work in progress, but we find booking meetings in our work diaries is the best way to catch up and talk business."
? Warner Cowin, EO New Zealand, CEO, Height PM
"My wife has worked in the company on and off for 10 years. It's been an interesting journey. For a while, the joke at the end of the day was, 'How was your day, honey?' and her reply: 'Ok, but my boss (me!) is a jerk." I appreciate Amanda for filling in at multiple roles within the company, holding me accountable, and making sure I'm making good decisions and moving forward on challenging projects."
? Tom Rauen, EO Iowa, Founder and CEO, EnvisionTees.com
"There's an inherent trust level--that you both have the best interest of the business (and each other) at heart. We're able to move at a faster pace due to the speed of communication and decision-making because we live our lives together--not just a 40-hour workweek. Finally, there are no competing interests for our time like there were when we each worked for corporations; we're both working toward the same goal."
? Heidi Rasmussen, EO Dallas, Co-founder and COO, freshbenies
"My wife, Elisa, is our corporate controller. As our business has grown over the last 10 years, I couldn't have predicted the sheer number of things that Elisa would be involved with that are now mission-critical. She is the primary point of contact for our banking relationship and coordinates all customer invoicing. Our employees appreciate how quickly she turns around expense check reimbursements. My biggest lesson learned? Unexpected expenditures that are not discussed beforehand may cause voices to be raised!"
? John Klein, EO Iowa, Founder and CEO, Redstone Content Solutions
"In the beginning, we worried that working together would cause a rift between us, or if we got into a business argument, it would hurt our relationship. In retrospect, it's brought us closer and has been one of the best things that we've done for our relationship. We make sure to separate whose responsibility is what. And we try not to overlap."
? Kate Hancock, EO Los Angeles, Founder, Bintana Sa Paraiso
"I'm constantly amazed by my wife, Jane's, take on business. She grew up on a family farm in England. Farming may be the purest form of entrepreneurship--even if you do everything right, too much or too little rain can ruin your efforts. Season to season, the entire family is acutely aware of the risks and benefits. In my IT business, Jane provides a solid sounding board to consider whether something is truly an issue or just a bump in the road. My biggest lesson? Trust in your spouse. You might be surprised what useful advice comes from working together!"
? Scott Spiro, EO Los Angeles, Co-founder, SugarShot
"From day one, we have spent most of every day together and it has benefited our company because of the synergy we create. The biggest surprise has come recently as we've each tried to do more of our own thing but find it hard to be apart after working so closely for more than 36 years!"
? Chris Holtz, EO Cincinnati, Co-founder, Countertops and Cabinetry by Design