More precisely, I became business partners with my husband. But I won’t let the facts get in the way of a catchy title!
I have had two business partners. The first, Luca de Salvia, and I parted ways after 5 years, which followed 2 years of being friends and colleagues at Gucci Group. We are now good friends again after being out of touch for a while — I’m rubbish at falling out with people.
Many people say to not go into business with friends because the only certainty is that you won’t be friends for long. I disagree, and often work with friends as colleagues and clients. That topic will be a post in itself.
It’s difficult to fact-check creative couples: I thought that Charles and Ray Eames didn’t stay together but it seems they did. Couples which spring to mind who were in business together but then split personally are Baron & Baron (dearth of info since Google says Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe.), Dolce & Gabbana and Yves Saint Laurent & Pierre Bergé.
Learning to have a healthy personal life while working together, and a healthy work life when married to your business partner are two sides of the same coin. My view is probably through rose-coloured glasses and our work colleagues and our kids probably have different points of view (welcome in the comments below if you dare)!
Over the years we are learning more and more about creating work-life harmony à deux. So far, this is what we have found.
1. Communication is everything in work and personal life. The silent treatment and mind reading are fun if you are a sadist but not especially helpful in healthy relationships. From talking about big important things to coordinating appointments, there is an incredible amount of information (and emotions too) flying back and forth in a household with kids and babysitters and an office full of designers, developers and project managers. Sometimes my husband is inadvertently the last person to know if we have an evening out together.
2. Know your working style and respect your partner’s approach. He prefers teamwork and I like to work alone, though I can appreciate that the results are usually better if I can muster up some patience for a collaboration. In the house things are more clear cut with me mostly managing the household ‘inside’ (kids’ activities, au pair coordination, food shopping) and him outside (garden and the physical house) which is stereotypical but (and?) it works. Which leads to the next point.
3. Know when to divide and conquer and when to team up. Whether it’s acting as good cop and bad cop or just playing to each person’s strengths, sometimes it’s best for each person to have his and her own domains while at other times teamwork is crucial. Parents will know that the only way to avoid kids outsmarting them is to have a united front: consistent policies on dessert, staying up late, watching videos, operating heavy machinery. Same goes for dog owners! The mix of when to go solo and when to be a team is also relevant in the office, often to work most efficiently and to not tread on each others’ toes.
4. Time apart. Who doesn’t need some time alone, or socialising with friends? There was the time when we had a pair of industrial ear protectors lying around, I popped them on and thought I’d discovered the answer to blocking out loud kids. But then I realised that I couldn’t wear them non-stop and would indeed need to stake out some time to myself, physically away from a loud household. My preferred mix at the moment is tennis, reading, TV or films and time with friends.
5. Time together. At home it’s called Date Night. In the office it’s a Directors’ Meeting. This sounds flippant but I’m serious. They each have their importance and guidelines, like no talking about work during Date Night, and have a Directors’ Meeting quarterly. Please don’t ask if we actually follow those rules – well, that’s why they’re called guidelines. The time together allows you to step out of the day-to-day and see things from a different point of view. There’s also an undefined ‘enjoyable work’ type of event like an art opening or an architect’s talk which isn’t quite a Date Night but isn’t really networking or a work function. They’re the bonuses of working together!
If your business and life partner are one and the same, please share your tips and anecdotes in the comments below.