When Josh and Sally launched their business Pagely in 2006, they had just been married a few months. Soon they learned that coupling the demands of marriage with a brand new startup is exhausting—but it’s also rewarding if you commit to work together and push through all the growing pains.
Their business was founded on a simple idea that has developed into a major website hosting platform, but their success didn’t just materialize. It was dependent on communication and collaboration, which took them both a long time to grasp.
So how did they progress from ambitious newlyweds with an entrepreneurial dream to co-owners running an established company?
These five strategies helped Josh and Sally manage their business without neglecting marriage and they just might work for you and your spouse too:
1. Define the roles, but allow them to evolve
When they started their company, the process was both exciting and emotional. Most couples spend their first years together learning how to be married, but they were simultaneously figuring out how to be co-workers.
During this transition, the main source of conflict came from settling into their roles for each. In the beginning, they had clear designated roles which rarely allowed to overlap. Sally started with marketing, billing, idea creation, process execution, and usability testing while Josh focused on technology, sales, taxes, payroll, and human resources.
Now, they take a more balanced approach and blend their responsibilities when they need to. It also helps that they now have a team that can help them make decisions and execute accordingly.
2. Make time to still connect with each other
While Sally never considered that working together might be detrimental to their marriage, when two people are passionate about success, it’s difficult to turn off that mindset. Sally describes the love for each other was easy, but owning a business was hard, so that’s where their focus would shift often at the expense of the relationship.
Even as seasoned business owners, it’s not uncommon for their conversation to jump from the kids’ swim class schedule to a Pagely marketing initiative, back to deciding what’s for dinner in the span of a few minutes. One of the major challenges has been to not allow the grind to drive themselves apart, but rather be intentional about connecting and meeting each other’s emotional needs outside of the business.
3. Keep a personal and professional balance
In the beginning, there was no delineation between their personal and professional lives. After they became parents, it became a clear priority for them to separate the two worlds. When their children were babies, Sally says she worked from home and hired someone to help. It was less expensive than daycare and allowed her to still be present while working.
Now, it’s all based on how both Josh and Sally managed their schedules – shared activities, household functions, and family vacations are organized first, then work responsibilities flow around their personal lives. In the mornings, Sally says she would start a load of laundry, make breakfast, and prepare the kids for school.
When they leave, I turn my attention to the business agenda, but once they’re back home in the afternoon, it’s “mom time” again. Creating and sticking with a consistent routine is our foundational strategy for maintaining balance.
4. Capitalize on both individuals’ strengths
Both Josh and Sally were capable of handling many facets of the operation, but each of them has unique strengths that they excel in. Knowing when to “own something” and when to keep their hands off is a learned behaviour they deliberately practised over time.
One method of figuring out strengths is discussing what each person enjoys doing. Then, divide up the tasks and routinely reevaluate as preferences change or creativity stagnates.
For instance, Sally says she doesn’t have Josh’s technical skills but she is excellent with structure, so she can turn abstract concepts into brainstorms that he’ll expand on. Also, because the tech space is male-dominated, Josh is better at networking and forming relationships.
5. Work toward a mutual trust and respect
I find the most efficient and thriving companies are backed by co-founders who share a goal, respect the partnership, listen to opposing visions and know when to respond with, “Let’s give your idea a try first.” says Sally
Trusting your co-founder’s motives decreases the risk of worry and doubt undermining your collaboration. Trust also extends to disagreements—they might have differing viewpoints on tackling a problem, but both Josh and Sally confident each side has an equally valid position which makes the decision process smoother. Even if there are power struggles at times, as a married couple, “I give up” is not an option—there’s too much at stake, Sally concludes.
As a married couple who also happen to be business partners, their worlds constantly intermingle—that is just how it is and they have learned to successfully function as a team in each of these spheres.
Remaining united is the most critical ingredient to sustaining a devoted relationship in the midst of running an organization. There are ebbs and flows in marriage, and they become even more amplified when you combine the pressure of a business. But with commitment, patience, endurance, and intentionality, it is possible to succeed in both.