We both learned it's okay to make our own rules.
I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been asked how I manage to survive working with my husband. When people find out Chris and I work together, it’s the first question I get asked. Honestly, before launching StitchCrew, I wondered if we could pull it off too.
I love my husband, but we are not “that couple” that has to do everything together. As a serial entrepreneur, Chris ran multiple businesses prior to StitchCrew and I traveled constantly for work. We were never short of dinner parties, networking events and receptions, so we’ve always been very respectful of personal time and life outside of marriage.
When I got burned out with my job and we discussed the idea of launching a business together, we both had doubts. Ultimately we decided to take the plunge and two years later, I can sincerely say working together has brought us closer.
Of course, it hasn’t been without its glitches. Over time we’ve learned to set boundaries. We figured out how we compliment each other and delegated responsibility and authority accordingly. For example, Chris is better with operations, programming, managing vendors and finances. So he calls the shots when it comes to those areas. I, on the other hand, am much better dealing with investors, partners and recruitment. We have learned to balance each other, particularly in these four areas:
Since working together we’ve become more understanding and aware of each others feelings. Before, I would come home and share stories of what it is like to climb the corporate ladder being the only hispanic female in what I like to call “Bright Rooms” (rooms full of white men). Although he’d never admit it, Chris would often look at me in disbelief. Now that we get to be in Bright Rooms together, he gets to experience first hand the mansplaining and back handed compliments. By the same token, I used to overlook and dismiss his entrepreneurial struggles. Chris is very reserved, so it’s not like he would come home to share what bills he wasn’t able to pay or how much churn he was dealing with, he just wouldn’t talk about it. It’s not until now that I can relate to the pressure of running a business and I feel terrible for not asking questions and figuring out ways in which I may have been able to help or just be there for him.
Like every other couple, there have been plenty of times when we lashed out at each other over disagreements, at home, the airport and in the car. This is harder to do when you’ve set out to establish a team that embraces and values different perspectives regardless of background, experience and pedigree. We’ve had to learn that we can’t just walk out on arguments, roll our eyes in front of colleagues, and most importantly we’ve learned to respect each other as peers. We now know when it’s time to back off and talk (or yell at each other) when we are alone.
When running a business it is almost guaranteed things will go wrong at some point or another. It’s nice to be in business with someone you trust not only to get the job done but to openly share angst and self-doubt when things don’t go as expected. I also know he will not quit or let me quit because at the end of the day neither of us wants to let the other down.
Make your Own Rules
A lot of couples who work together will tell you they never bring work home or talk about work over the dinner table. That works for them. Chris and I love to strategize, in the office, at home, during vacation and in front of our girls who often pitch their own ideas and solutions. That works for us. The only rule we have is that if the other person doesn’t want to talk about work, the other person has to respect that and we switch the conversation. I know this is not the norm for most couples even if they don’t work together, but we’ve learned to make rules that fit our lifestyle, not someone else’s.
There are plenty of examples of couples deciding that working together is not ideal. I realize it’s not for everybody, but so far it’s worked for us. If your experience working with your spouse is different or you have any tips on how you are making it work, we’d love to hear from you.