Night Shift

WHO: Jose Serrato, 40, CEO of Serrato Drywall Inc., a $1.4-million drywall-construction business, and his wife, Kathy, 41, who serves as his secretary-treasurer and office manager. The office is in their home, in Dallas.

FAMILY: The Serratos have four children. The oldest, Jose Jr., 18, works for the company.

5:15 P.M. Jose Sr. arrives home from a job site. He turns off his two-way radio and cell phone and speaks with employees who are waiting for him outside his house to discuss a problem with a coworker.

6:15 The family eats dinner together. From about 6:30 on, the phones are not answered, though they often ring all night. This is one way Jose and Kathy try to separate their work and family lives. "We maintain two separate phone lines, but many of our employees and subcontractors know both our home and business numbers and don't hesitate to call on either one," says Kathy.

6:50 Jose Jr. drives his brother, Paul, age 11, to soccer practice. Laura, 15, and Anna, 17, go along.

7:00 Jose Sr. and Kathy sit down to discuss work-related issues, including a confrontation that occurred during the day with a contractor. Jose Jr. returns home and joins the conversation. Tonight is an exception because the Serratos generally try not to talk about business after dinner. "More than anything, I think it's just that we've tired of it by that time," Kathy explains. "When the business was younger [they founded it in 1994], we lived by it -- we discussed it day and night, it seemed. These days, it's as though we realize that it will still be there tomorrow, so there's not the urgency of answering every call or discussing every aspect."

8:00 Jose Sr. goes outside to work on a tree house he has been building with Paul "to forget about the day for a while," he says.

8:45 Jose Sr. comes back in as the kids come home from practice. He catches Kathy doing something for work on the computer. She stops. "The boundaries are important," says Kathy. "We've always felt that. They're needed not only for our children, so they can expect some private time with us, but for ourselves as well, for our sanity. We had hoped when we moved into our new home, a year ago, with a designated office, that we could close the door in the evenings, that we'd have more separation than we had our first six years in business when our office was all over the house, it seemed. But in reality we know that the office is sitting right there, waiting, and Jose doesn't do much business in the office anyway -- his favorite desk seems to be the kitchen table, where he can spread out. As a result, the boundaries aren't as clear as they might be." 9:15 The Serrato parents sit down with the kids to watch some TV together. After some argument, they agree on a show and the nightly news. Jose Sr. falls asleep on the couch.

10:20 Paul wakes his father, who then goes to bed.

The Inc Life

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Published on: Nov 1, 2001