I know firsthand the rewards and challenges of working with your spouse. My wife, Van, and I both come from entrepreneurial families and inherited the gene. We used to work together consulting with clients, creating multimedia content, writing, and managing our team. On one hand, seeing her work up close and personal reinforced my awe of her. She's incredibly talented and creative in ways I could never be. It's even more satisfying to work on a successful project with her than it is alone. On the other hand, it is a challenge to make a living with the one you've chosen for life. We had to be careful not to let personal and business disagreements color each other, and we had to make sure to make separate times for work and personal life.
YPO member Chika Sakane has mastered how to work with her spouse, and her company is stronger for it. Sakane is the Managing Director of Link International, an Australian importer and wholesaler of high quality motorcycle performance parts. Sakane is also the founder of BikeRoar and Roar Adventures. BikeRoar began when she started getting into bicycling, and saw a need for a one-stop-shop for beginners and experts to get and share information, review equipment, keep up with technology and trends, and connect with local stores. It has become the world's largest cycling product and dealer locator. Born out of that success, Roar Adventures is a search and booking website for bicycle tours all around the globe. Sakane's husband, Mikel Kew, is the CTO at both companies. Roar Adventures donates 10% of all profits to charity: 5% to World Bicycle Relief and 5% to other local charities in the countries they host travel travel, including humanitarian and animal charities.
On an episode of my podcast, 10 Minute Tips from the Top, Sakane shared how she's able to have a successful business and successful marriage with the same person:
1. Test It Out
Don't just jump into a new venture with your spouse. Just like you dated before you got married, you need to test out your working relationship to see if you fit there, too. Before working together on BikeRoar and Roar Adventures, Sakane and Kew had co-founded Bargains 4 Business, an Australia-wide B2B deal site. "I hired him at BikeRoar after 6 years together. We'd worked on a different project before, and I knew that I could work with him," says Sakane. Kew knows how to play the right role at the right time. "He's my employee," says Sakane. Does he do what she tells him? "Not all the time!" she laughs.
2. Establish Clear Boundaries
Several times, Sakane repeats the importance of defining rules for your work and life relationships. "The problem is that we have to be disciplined," she advises. When you're both entrepreneurial, you may want to talk about it all the time, because it's fun. But you need limits. Above all, "Keep it out of the bedroom," she says. Remember also that you have different strengths and weaknesses in each situation. "He's the total opposite of me," Sakane shares, "But he excels in his department." And remember: "Don't talk about work in the bedroom!"
One of the traits that Sakane looks for in an employee is one that she and her husband have had to practice as well. She preaches patience and listening with her employees, and tries to do the same with her spouse. "Really listen," she advises. "Try not to form a judgment. But try to understand why they're doing what they do," she says. This can be a particular challenge in her line of work, she says, because "It's a passionate industry, both motorcycles and bicycles." Keep your cool, and remember all the times your spouse has shown you patience.
4. Remember You're in It Together
Working with my wife was a great joy, and it's clear Sakane feels the same about her husband. "I hear from some friends that their partnership works with one person at home looking after the family, and the other working long hours at the office. So when you go home, sometimes there's conflict because you're not spending enough time with them. For us, we're working together, so there's an understanding that both of us are pulling the hard yards and putting in long hours," she explains. You're lucky that you get to spend the time with someone so great, you've chosen them as your partner for life! "We're in it together," Sakane asserts.
5. Keep It Fun
When you spend so much time together, it's easy to get complacent. Don't forget to be grateful for such a wonderful partner on this adventure. Sakane says, "It's great because we travel together, and we have some time off on the weekends when we're traveling." If you follow the rules on boundaries and stay patient with one another, your working and personal relationship will grow - and your business will, too. "It's fun!" Sakane smiles. Make sure you keep it that way.
On Fridays, Kevin explores industry trends, professional development, best practices, and other leadership topics with CEOs from around the world.