Tina Hodges is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) Spouse and Co-owner, Chief Executive and Chief Experience Officer at Advance Financial in Nashville, Tennessee. We asked Tina about her experience owning a business with her spouse. Here's what she had to say.
When someone is devoted to her work and clocking in long, hard hours, we often say she is married to her job. In my case, I am married to my job and my business partner. Mike and I have been running a financial services company headquartered in Nashville for 16 years and have been married for 13 of those.
Growing up in a household where mom and dad ran a business together gave me a good idea of the challenges and benefits of working with your spouse. When the water pipes freeze and leak on Christmas Day, who's going to the office? You both are. I saw my parents as partners, one mopping up a mess while the other emptied the buckets. I knew it would be an exciting and rewarding challenge.
By day we run a business with more than 650 employees and more than 70 locations throughout Tennessee. By night we run a family as parents of three beautiful young girls. It is possible to do it all, and do it successfully.
Here are some tips on how we've made it work.
Be extremely honest about strengths and weaknesses
One thing that makes our partnership work so well is that we complement each other and we know what skills the other brings to the table. I am detail-oriented: spreadsheets, plans and timelines are my specialties. Mike is a visionary; he focuses on the big picture. He generates the ideas, and I map out how we will make them happen. It is a near-perfect balance of attitudes and aptitudes, with neither of us thinking we are better or more important than the other. We realize that we complete each other in business, just like we do as husband and wife.
Business moves at the speed of trust. It's the oil that keeps the company running smoothly. Being married imbues an automatic level of trust in our work relationship. We've already put in the time building that trust in our personal relationship, and it carries over into the office environment. This not only enables us to make business decisions quickly, but it also reduces the pressure of running a company.
Go into business on equal footing
When working with your spouse, it's important for both of you to move at the same speed. You must support each other through growth periods and stick together when making big decisions. Drive the business equally and exert similar levels of energy. This will eliminate a lot of extraneous concerns and position your business for success.
In 2013 we opened 23 new stores in a single year, a pretty crazy feat by any measure. We had 26 stores at that time, so to nearly double our presence in one year was a true test of our ability to trust each other and succeed together. Throughout the process, we kept in constant conversation, discussing staff, buildings, necessary resources―everything. I was concerned about opening the stores on time, but Mike was out in the field keeping me informed of our progress every step of the way. Throughout the constant push and pull of expansion, we paced each other and made it happen.
View your work partnership as an extension of your marriage
Ask any pair of business partners, and they will tell you, at times it feels like they're married to each other. A marriage is a partnership, just like a business. There's a constant give and take; you can't succeed without compromise. Everyone has a unique style that you must accept and leverage to make the partnership work. Working together gives us a valued opportunity to learn even more about each other. What we discover about each other in the office environment―and we are constantly learning new things about each other―comes home with us to enhance our family life.
Mike and I ran a business together for eight years before starting a family, and in that time we discovered each other's strengths. The strengths that we have at work carry over into our family. I don't expect Mike to map out appointments or family obligations at home because he doesn't do that at work. And Mike knows I will have a game plan in place for our family because I always have one ready for our business. Once you get into the rhythm, you'll find that what works for your relationship at home also works in the office. And vice versa.
As we've built our professional and personal lives together, we've found that owning a business has many of the same characteristics as a marriage. Sharing two all-encompassing partnerships with the same person has worked extremely well for us. Learning about and encouraging each other has enabled us to build not only a healthy relationship but also a business that has a positive impact on the community we love.