“Your work with husband! My spouse and I could never do that! How do you manage without getting a divorce or killing each other?” I hear this all the time. The quick answer is that we love it and can’t imagine not working together. Is it challenging sometimes? Absolutely! So how do we do it?
My husband, Gary Scott, and I combined forces and started working together almost 20 years ago, and we just celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. We are a little different from other spouses that work together since we each have our own business. Gary is an attorney who has substantial experience with commercial real estate transactions and his own firm, Gary L. Scott P.C. In addition, he is a licensed real estate broker.
I own Solender/Hall Inc., a commercial real estate brokerage company, and am the company’s broker. We are each the CEO of our own business. That gives us the final decision in each business. However, Gary is critical to Solender/Hall because of his legal expertise and brokerage understanding. He works on almost all our projects. I assist him in his business by handling his accounting, proofing documents and serving as a sounding board.
Below are six recommendations from our experience as well as input from other spouses that work together in real estate.
Evaluate Your Relationship.
Do you have strong relationship with common values, shared goals and complementary skills that will apply to the workplace? I am not saying this lightly. Not every marriage has all these characteristics that apply in a business setting. Working together is very different from living together. Honestly addressing this first key item is critical to your decision.
Do at least one test run.
Co-chair a special event in a volunteer capacity, teach a course together, co-author a series of articles or blogs. This trial run will give you both an opportunity to see how you work together, define your skill sets, determine your natural inclinations, and see whether everything meshes.
Create a good working environment and establish privacy.
Working in the same room—practically side-by-side—has strengthened our relationship and proved to be profitable. We have separate desks, computers, and phones. We give each other and our employees privacy. If you don’t have private offices, be sure there is a quiet location where a telephone call or meeting can take place.
Be respectful of each other.
Say please, thank you, and use a respectful and caring tone when talking with each other. That’s how we treat our colleagues, and it’s no different with your spouse. When something frustrating happens, avoid taking it out on your spouse. He or she will be upset as well and want to be supportive—not a punching bag for your frustration.
Capitalize on each other’s strengths and complementary skills.
I am more social than Gary, like marketing and interacting with clients and other brokers, public speaking, and working with groups. Gary is more behind-the-scenes. He’s very detail oriented, technology savvy, an excellent writer, and a good strategist. We don’t compete with each other. Instead, we see our differences as a huge benefit for ourselves and our clients.
Discuss big decisions before you make them.
We discuss goals for our businesses, each potential new project/client, significant expenditures, hiring and firing of employees and contractors, and any other issue that could have a significant impact on our businesses and how we work. Surprising your spouse with a major decision can undermine your working relationship and undermine the future of your business.
There are many more recommendations I could share, but these are some of the major ones. Overall, it has taken time for us to learn to work together, and some days we drive each other crazy. However, we recognize that the big benefits of working with each other are a high level of trust and shared goals. When one of us succeeds, we both succeed.
Eliza Solender is president of Solender/Hall, Inc. and serves on the board of directors of Origin Bancorp.