At home, it's none of their business

Chris and Natasha Ashton, owners of Petplan, work in the offices of their pet insurance company in Philadelphia. They have discovered that compromise is the only way to end an argument. Now, he handles the financial and insurance end and she focuses on marketing and PR. AP
Chris and Natasha Ashton, owners of Petplan, work in the offices of their pet insurance company in Philadelphia. They have discovered that compromise is the only way to end an argument. Now, he handles the financial and insurance end and she focuses on marketing and PR. AP
Posted: February 19, 2013

As Lauren Smith and Matt Hendrickson drive home together, all conversation about work must stop a few blocks from their house.

The couple came up with the idea after starting a business together.

"That's our cutoff point, so when we go into the house, we can have a normal personal life," Lauren says.

Millions of people run businesses with their significant other every day.

There's no formula for making a success out of a business that is owned by a couple - or for also keeping their home life happy. Some, like Smith and Hendrickson, find that they need to take a break to keep working well together.

Smith and Hendrickson started Ascendify, a San Francisco firm that helps companies add social media to their online job postings, in April 2012, less than a year after they were married.

"It became an all-inclusive, all-encompassing mind-share. We ended up working on it nights and weekends," Matt says. Besides their self-imposed curfew on the drive home, the couple schedules activities to keep the company from taking over.

"We'll have a date night here or there, or go on a hike," Matt says. "If either of us talked about work on date night, we'd get in trouble with each other."

Pam and Mark Fisher started their Boston-area construction business in 1991 after losing their jobs. Their Construction Coordinators company primarily handles renovations for restaurants, stores and offices.

The couple had the added stress of raising two young children. Along the way, they've had to learn how to reconcile their different approaches to a challenge.

"I tend to focus on the technical aspects and Pam focuses on the people aspect of it," Mark says.

The Fishers say having their own interests is important. Pam belongs to organizations including a women's networking group. Mark belongs to professional and trade groups focusing on architecture and entrepreneurship. Time apart provides perspective, Mark says.

Over the years, they found that working together helped with personal matters like taking care of their children and their and aging parents. They also have figured out how to keep the business running when family issues inevitably crop up.

"We both always know what's going on at home or at work," Pam says.

Natalie and Carlos Giron are still learning how to work together as business owners. It's a difficult process because it's complicated by worries about money.

Carlos lost his job with a public relations firm at the end of 2008. Natalie was working as a teacher at a Catholic school. The couple decided the best way to support themselves was to invest Carlos' $5,000 severance pay into a learning center and tutoring business in the New York City borough of Queens.

Natalie runs Mrs. Giron's Tutoring and Learning Center. Carlos runs the center's website and does the marketing while also building his own business as a marketing consultant.

Owning a business has put a lot of pressure on the couple.

They have had arguments over the direction of the business, like whether to raise fees. At one point, Natalie questioned whether they should stop running the business together - or if they should even run it at all.

"If the business brings us money but ruins our relationship, it's not worth it," she told Carlos.

"It's only recently that I have changed my mind-set, and he has also changed his way of looking at things," Natalie says. "Both of us have learned how to trust each other, that we mean well and we want to share our partnership."

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