Sip and Zac de Silva

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When Sip and Zac de Silva mar­ried three years ago, the two en­trepreneurs had de­signs on each other join­ing their re­spec­tive busi­nesses. Zac was run­ning three busi­ness com­mu­ni­ties: profit and growth spe­cial­ist Busi­ness Chang­ing, busi­ness re­treat Nur­ture Change and Nur­ture Her, a busi­ness re­treat for fe­male en­trepreneurs. Sip was on a hia­tus from her prop­erty devel­op­ment busi­ness, own­ing and run­ning the ac­claimed Auck­land restau­rant, Bolaven. No one was budg­ing.

“Sip’s a su­per-as­tute busi­ness­woman so I was des­per­ate for her to come and work for me, but she was re­luc­tant, to say the least,” laughs Zac. Sip chimes in, “The thing about Zac is that he’s a num­bers guy and I’m a cre­ative. I wasn’t sure whether these two things would be com­pat­i­ble.”

Time to talk

Af­ter suc­cess­ful roles in prop­erty devel­op­ment and hos­pi­tal­ity, Sip knew her next ca­reer move needed to utilise her in­no­va­tive and strate­gist skillset. Her hus­band’s idea of join­ing his busi­ness ad­vi­sory com­pany held lit­tle ap­peal.

“I wasn’t con­vinced. Who would want to work to­gether and live to­gether while work­ing from home? That would be a tough ask for any cou­ple and I wasn’t sure I wanted to put our mar­riage into that pres­sure cooker,” Sip says.

It took some time for Zac to re­alise he re­quired a dif­fer­ent ap­proach… such as look­ing at things from his wife’s per­spec­tive. “In my head I be­lieved Sip needed to be work­ing for me, but I even­tu­ally fig­ured out I needed to be work­ing with her.”

It was a game-changer, and at the end of 2016 the two started to work to­gether in the busi­ness ad­vi­sory com­pany.

It took some time to ad­just.

“We were both used to be­ing in charge. Es­sen­tially I ap­proached work­ing with Zac as a takeover,” laughs Sip. “And Zac was

charg­ing along as though it was busi­ness as usual, treat­ing me more like a PA than a busi­ness part­ner!”

In those early days Zac con­cedes there was some mi­cro­manag­ing. “It was dif­fi­cult hand­ing over re­spon­si­bil­ity, even though

Sip wasn’t just any­body.”

They en­gaged in some hon­est di­a­logue.

They knew one an­other’s strengths, and once they de­ter­mined which ar­eas of busi­ness each would take re­spon­si­bil­ity for, they set­tled into a rhythm. They agreed Zac would con­tinue as the face of the busi­ness, work­ing di­rectly with clients, pre­sent­ing busi­ness plan­ning work­shops and host­ing their busi­ness re­treat, Nur­ture Change. Sip would cre­ate strategy, work on the finer de­tails be­hind the scenes with stake­hold­ers and pro­duce events for their com­mu­nity of busi­ness own­ers.

It was Sip who came up with the idea of run­ning Zac’s one-on-one coach­ing ses­sions on busi­ness plan­ning as a group work­shop. Zac needed some con­vinc­ing but the proof is in the pud­ding – they’ve since helped some 400 com­pa­nies across New Zealand and Aus­tralia.

“Sip cre­ated a pro­gramme where I can strate­gise and fa­cil­i­tate with up to 12 busi­nesses at a time. I wouldn’t have thought it was some­thing I’d do. Work­ing as a team, we’ve been able to help each other and in turn im­pact so many more peo­ple,” says Zac.

A few months ago, the two re­alised they hadn’t made a for­mal busi­ness plan since merg­ing, some­thing they ad­mit should have been done much ear­lier. So they put them­selves in their clients’ shoes, com­plet­ing their own busi­ness plan­ning work­shop.

“There were things we’d never thought to ask each other,” says Sip. “What were our plans in five, 10 and 15 years? The great thing it showed was that our vi­sion and val­ues were aligned. It’s im­por­tant be­ing able to de­fine the jour­ney to­gether

– not just one per­son hav­ing the vi­sion and the other one along for the ride.” The two and their team have fi­nally moved their busi­ness away from home and into new work premises. They say the pos­i­tives of work­ing to­gether far out­weigh the down­sides. They ad­mit they spend more time to­gether than most cou­ples, es­pe­cially when trav­el­ling for their busi­ness re­treats. One of the best things is be­ing able to see each other in their el­e­ment, do­ing what they’re best at. “We have a new re­spect for each other,” says Sip. “I think we still sur­prise each other reg­u­larly by what we do and the ideas we have. We learn to­gether and grow to­gether, which is kind of cool.”

Mar­riage coach

They are mind­ful about draw­ing the line be­tween work and per­sonal time. Sip takes the lead on their healthy work/life bal­ance fo­cus. There’s a “no tech­nol­ogy af­ter 7pm” rule, and no shop talk ei­ther, es­pe­cially around their kids (they have five older teenagers be­tween them). If one of them men­tions work over din­ner, there’s al­ways a light-hearted pun­ish­ment in store, such as do­ing an ex­tra house­hold chore. How­ever, they’re not joined at the hip and are con­sci­en­tious about find­ing time to do their own thing. Zac is a die-hard sports fa­natic and Sip reg­u­larly works out and at­tends yoga, as well as spend­ing time with friends. Zac and Sip live by the prin­ci­ples they preach and ad­vo­cate, and see a coun­sel­lor once a month. “We make it a reg­u­lar thing. We’re huge be­liev­ers in work­ing out is­sues and im­prov­ing our re­la­tion­ship. For us it was re­ally im­por­tant to make it a stand­ing ap­point­ment and, re­gard­less of where we are at, it’s a pri­or­ity,” Zac says. “If any­thing comes up dur­ing the month we write it down and take to our next ses­sion, rather than stew­ing on it,” says Sip. “Zac’s a busi­ness coach so we see the value in hav­ing a mar­riage coach. It re­minds us we’re on the same path but just com­mu­ni­cat­ing it dif­fer­ently – half the time our coun­sel­lor just acts as a trans­la­tor for us,” she laughs. “Peo­ple of­ten say to us they couldn’t work with their wife or hus­band, but it’s bet­ter than I had hoped for,” says Zac. “I think the best thing is the trust you have that they com­pletely have your back and al­ways have your best in­ter­ests at heart. We are on the same team and those high-five mo­ments mean more when it’s been some­thing we’ve done to­gether.”

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