When Oliver and I tell people we work together we often hear “how do you not kill each other?” or “Gosh you are brave!” to us it just seemed the sensible decision!
When we worked separately we would often spend a lot of our evenings apart with one or the other of us working late or commuting. Life felt like it was slipping past and we were wasting precious minutes.
Oliver set up our company 2011. He was struggling to balance being creative with the day-to-day tasks involved in running and growing a business. I was looking for a career change and to build in some more flexibility into my life. Thankfully I had a good understanding of financial management as well as leadership and team management skills. Joining the company seemed the obvious choice.
I think I was more nervous about going to work with Oliver than he was about working with me, he seemed to just know it would work whereas I was worried that we might drive each other mad and we might exhaust our personal relationship by spending too much time together.
We set some ground rules before I joined:
- We would have distinct roles – I would be the money and detail person, Oliver the creative and new business person
- We wouldn’t talk about work at home in the evenings
- We wouldn’t act as a couple at work so we wouldn’t make our team feel uncomfortable
Having distinct roles has worked for us, we are very different people so we can draw on our strengths to suit our roles. However, there are times when it feels like we are so different I wonder how we don’t argue more! I like to understand the benefits behind everything we do and make quick decisions. Oliver likes to take his time to think things through but will often push creative ideas through without any prioritisation, moving from one idea to the next leaving me behind dazed and confused! I like to think I am the stable, sensible one and he is the creative, ideas man. The only problem with this is sometimes I do feel like the boring one, but I think he appreciates the level-headed approach and the stability I have brought to the company.
Not talking about work at home has been the hardest of these rules to achieve and actually there are times when we both want to discuss work, it helps us relax after a busy day, connecting the future of the business with our personal aspirations and giving some reason to the long hours. Often we are so busy with our individual roles that we don’t talk much throughout the day and having a catch up in the evening suits us. We are also firm believers in an open plan working space, so we often have to leave private conversations until the evenings. There are times when we do ask for time out from business talk and being able to accept this and wait until the next day is something we have both had to learn to respect, frustrating as it can be at times.
Not acting as a couple at work was hard to begin with, I would sometimes forget and expect a kiss goodbye when leaving for a meeting! It was hard turning this side of things off while in work but we soon fell into a routine. Occasionally I worry we might lose some of our closeness but we still hold hands like teenagers when we escape for a rare lunch together!
The one thing I had underestimated was how work does become more of your life when you run a business and work together. Oliver had three years experience of this and was better at coping with clients ringing at 7pm on a Friday evening, but I have learnt to accept that to have such a great work life balance you have to accept both areas become more blurred. I can pop out when I feel like it to go and run an errand, or start work a bit later, but in return you end up working into evenings or weekends when things are really busy. Ultimately you are working for your future so if you don’t work hard no one else is going to do it for you!
It wouldn’t be for everyone but for us it is working and our quality of life has improved greatly. The natural trust between us allows us to make business decisions without the worry that one person has any ulterior motives. We have a great balance of skills and respect each other’s strengths; luckily for both of us we enjoy the tasks the other doesn’t, so we aren’t competing for roles! We like to think we are the ultimate team and would encourage others to give it a go, but it is a lifestyle choice, it is hard to switch off and often on days off we will end up discussing work; but as Oliver says “if you enjoy your work, you never work a day in your life”.