CON­FES­SIONS OF DY­NAMIC DUOS

RUN­NING A BUSI­NESS WITH YOUR SPOUSE

National Post (Latest Edition) - - Entrepreneur - BY DEENA WAISBERG

Many cou­ples fan­ta­size about work­ing to­gether. But only about 5% of those that go into busi­ness to­gether can make the ven­ture work, ac­cord­ing to Azriela Jaffe, au­thor of Honey, I Want to Start My Own Busi­ness, A Plan­ning Guide for Cou­ples. Four cou­ples who have tied a dou­ble knot share their se­crets to suc­cess, in­clud­ing “dos” and “don’ts” for co­en­trepreneur­ship.

A com­mon thread among the cou­ples was that co-en­trepreneurs are more likely to be suc­cess­ful if they have com­ple­men­tary skills be­cause a busi­ness re­quires dif­fer­ent tal­ents. Linda Lund­ström had a back­ground in fash­ion de­sign, while her hus­band Joel Hal­bert, who joined cloth­ing de­sign and man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany Linda Lund­ström Inc. in 1987, is an ac­coun­tant. Farah Perel­muter did pub­lic re­la­tions for an ad­ver­tis­ing agency be­fore start­ing Speak­ers’ Spot­light in 1995 with her hus­band Martin, who is a lawyer.

Dif­fer­ent tal­ents al­so­make it eas­ier to es­tab­lish dif­fer­ent busi­ness roles, which is crit­i­cal to avoid step­ping on each other’s toes, ac­cord­ing to Mr. Hal­bert, who ad­mits that he and his wife have nev­er­the­less “done some step­ping” in the past. Ms. Lund­ström over­sees cloth­ing de­sign as well as man­u­fac­tur­ing and op­er­a­tions, whileMr. Hal­bert looks af­ter the fi­nan­cials. Mr. Perel­muter builds client re­la­tion­ships and han­dles the op­er­a­tions whileMrs. Perel­muter does all the mar­ket­ing for their com­pany and man­ages staff.

Even so,

cou­ples

are bound to

dis- agree about some busi­ness de­ci­sions and there­fore the cou­ples un­der­line that com­mu­ni­ca­tion is key while si­lence is deadly. Cal­gary-based hus­band and wife team Li­ette Tousig­nant and Kelly Krake, who in­vented the Hang and Level pic­ture-hang­ing tool, are com­mit­ted to talk­ing through dif­fer­ences of opin­ion. “In the past, there were times I didn’t com­mu­ni­catemy con­cern and a de­ci­sion didn’t turn out well. Now we speak our minds and we don’t take dis­agree­ments per­son­ally,” Ms. Tousig­nant says.

Still, Mr. Hal­bert and Ms. Lund­ström em­pha­size it is im­por­tant to present a united front to em­ploy­ees. “If we have a dis­agree­ment, we iron it out be­hind closed doors be­cause if your staff see you dis­agree­ing on ma­jor is­sues, it causes un­cer­tainty,” Ms. Lund­ström says. Also it pre­vents staff run­ning from one owner to the next, if they don’t get an an­swer they want, which used to hap­pen at Lund­strom, she adds.

Ad­di­tion­ally, while at work, pro­fes- sional be­hav­iour is nec­es­sary. “We’re not hold­ing hands or lovely dovey,” says Mr. Perel­muter. Fur­ther­more, all the cou­ples say they avoid drag­ging per­sonal is­sues into work. “I used to work at one com­pany where a cou­ple who worked to­gether would get into do­mes­tic quar­rels at the of­fice. It was un­com­fort­able to watch,” Mr. Hal­bert re­calls.

Then there are the ben­e­fits, such as more flex­i­bil­ity in work hours, which suc­cess­ful cou­ples use to en­hance their home life. Ms. Tousig­nant andMr. Krake have both taken time off in the mid­dle of the day to at­tend one of their daugh­ter’s con­certs. Lind­say and Moira Merrithew, who own Stott Pi­lates, a com­pany that sells Pi­lates equip­ment and ex­er­cise videos, have also taken ad­van­tage of this flex­i­bil­ity. “When the kids were younger, Moira was able to take time off and still be able to con­trib­ute to suc­cess of the busi­ness,” Mr. Merrithew says.

How­ever, co-en­trepreneurs also end up work­ing longer hours than cou­ples who are salaried em­ploy­ees – 87 com­bined hours a week com­pared with 74, ac­cord­ing to a 1999 Sta­tis­tics Canada sur­vey called “Work­ing To­gether — Self Em­ployedCou­ples.” Re­la­tion­ships can suf­fer, if cou­ples aren’t care­ful, the Perl­muters warn. They use the drive home to switch gears and fo­cus on home and the chil­dren. Most of the cou­ples rec­om­mend di­vid­ing home and work life. But this is some­times eas­ier said than done. “We love our work and it can be dif­fi­cult to turn it off at the end of the day. Too of­ten our dis­cus­sions morph into busi­ness dis­cus­sions,” Mr. Krake ad­mits.

Be­cause Mr. Krake and Ms. Tousig­nant are liv­ing to­gether and work­ing to­gether — at home no less — they make it a pri­or­ity to carve out some “me” time. Mr. Krake and Ms. Tousig­nant work out sep­a­rately in the morn­ing— she uses the home gymin their base­ment and he goes to a lo­cal fit­ness fa­cil­ity.

Fi­nally, co-en­trepreneurs must be com­mit­ted to the busi­ness and each other for bet­ter or worse. As they draw their in­come from the same source, there will be greater pres­sure if the busi­ness runs into trou­ble. Al­though Linda Lund­ström Inc. is now a healthy $10.5mil­lion busi­ness, there was a time when the com­pany was in se­ri­ous fi­nan­cial trou­ble. “Our re­la­tion­ship ac­tu­ally got stronger be­cause of it, but it was a test that could have torn us apart,” Ms. Lund­ström says.

But if there’s more risk, there is also more re­ward. “Many cou­ples don’t un­der­stand each other’s work. We share that and we’ve had a great ad­ven­ture to­gether,” Mrs. Perl­muter says.

Co-en­trepreneurs Lind­say andMoiraMer­rithew, who own Stott Pi­lates, say one of the ad­van­tages of run­ning a busi­ness to­gether is the flexible hours.

Kelly Krake and Li­ette Tousig­nant, in­ven­tors of Hang and Level pictue-hang­ing tool are com­mited to work­ing

From left, through their dif­fer­ences; Linda Lund­ström and Joel Hal­bert, own­ers of the epony­mous cloth­ing de­signer present a united front; Speak­ers’ Spot­light Martin and

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