Power Couples

(Above) Photo by Emily Pérez Long

 

Companies

Dynamic Husband-Wife Duos Doing Business Together

As a business owner, there’s nothing better than having a partner – someone who will be in the trenches with you when the going gets tough and someone to also celebrate successes with. But what happens when your business partner is also your partner in life? Well, for these dynamic husband-wife duos, running a business together offers up a unique sense of support and fulfillment. While the journey may be difficult at times, having each other ultimately results in a better balance, a deeper sense of trust, and business strides that likely wouldn’t have happened if life had transpired in any other way. 

By Christina Cannon 

Jamie and Hariett Stafford

Photo by Rich Smith

The Staffords

Jamie & Hariett

Hair Benders Internationalé and Revive Aesthetics and Wellness

Working together since 2003

 

How do you balance time spent professionally with personal time?

JS: I’m not sure if there is a balance, and I don’t know if I want one. We do more problem-solving at home, away from the noise, and we take the time to share the struggles with the kids, for teaching moments such as conflict resolution. As a rule, the kids come first no matter what, and that keeps us grounded.

What advice would you give someone about to embark on a venture where they will be working with their significant other? 

HS: It’s important that you share the same values and work ethic. It’s important not to keep score or think your job is more important than your spouse’s because you will ultimately take on different roles to support the company. Your roles will fit together like a puzzle – every piece is just as important as the next. It’s also important not only that you love each other, but that you actually like each other and enjoy one another’s company.

What was the process like when it came to defining your roles for your company?  

JS: It was sink or swim, so we jumped right in and maximized our strengths and minimized our weaknesses. We both have a passion for winning and a keen understanding of how we approach our jobs and what we expect to achieve in the end. I know what she needs from me, she knows what I need from her, and we do it at a high level over and over again until we succeed.

How do you encourage and motivate each other professionally? How does this differ from creating drive on a personal level?

HS: Jamie and I are fortunate in that we share the same level of drive and enthusiasm. If we can dream it up, we are going to try it. If one of us has a lightbulb-moment idea, the other one will build on it. This has benefited us greatly, has given us several great teaching moments, and has definitely grown us as a couple.  

How has working together impacted your relationship?   

JS: We have learned to parent and work in complementary roles. Working together allows us to be a unified front for our staff and kids. Everyone is getting the same message all of the time. Hariett is my ride-or-die, and I’ve got her back to the end, so it’s built a new level of trust and understanding. She is spectacular as a human being, and she challenges me to be better and keep pushing. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

 

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Chris and Tracie LeSar

Photo by Emily Pérez Long

The LeSars

Chris & Tracie

Vascular Institute of Chattanooga

Working together since 2016

 

What are some of the benefits and unique challenges of working together? 

TL: We have the ability to communicate and collaborate on projects in ways we would not otherwise be able to do in a traditional business setting, and we can make instant decisions when necessary for the betterment of the company. Most importantly, we have the ability to speak freely about anything that is on our minds, but it can be difficult to know when it is time and when it’s not to talk about business.

What was the process like when it came to defining your roles for your company?

CL: We both looked at our strengths and determined what talents we each brought to the company – not just specific skills, but also passion and determination. I don’t think either of us was fully prepared for what would be expected from us, but when you are sinking or swimming, you find the wherewithal to do what has to be done.

How do you encourage and motivate each other professionally? 

CL: Asking for and listening to the other person’s opinion can help form the direction and emphasis that we have on different projects. By giving each other the freedom to make the decisions in the roles we were matched with, it opens the doors up to being able to exceed our potential.

What advice would you give someone about to embark on a venture where they will be working with their significant other? 

TL: Make sure your relationship has a strong foundation of communication. You can’t be shy about your feelings, and I think this has led me to be more confident in my beliefs, more passionate about my decisions, and more driven to succeed. It is not about me or about him – it is about what we are able to do when we work together.

How has working together impacted your relationship? 

CL: Before Tracie entered into my professional orbit, work was intense and often not talked about when I got home at night. Now that we have a shared interest, it generates a lot of discussion, conversation, and excitement in some of the projects that we work on together. I am constantly impressed with Tracie’s insight and ability to help me to see the other side of problems and to challenge me to be a better person and doctor.

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Billy and Connie McCoy

Photo by Rich Smith

The McCoys

Billy & Connie

McCoy Homes

Working together since 1992

 

What are some of the benefits and unique challenges of working together? 

CM: I love that we get to bounce ideas off of one another, and we have a very similar work schedule. We also get to see our ideas become reality and enjoy our successes together. On the other hand, we have to be mindful and give one another grace and make sure we’re staying in our own individual work lanes.

What advice would you give someone about to embark on a venture where they will be working with their significant other? 

BM: Don’t let fear stand in the way. Pull from one another’s strengths, and define work roles and goals. Spend time together talking, dating, and enjoying one another’s company outside of work. 

How do you balance time spent professionally with personal time?

CM: This hasn’t always been easy, especially in the early days of working together. We have learned to take time away from work once we are together in the evenings. We have also learned that it is necessary to take vacations, have healthy friendships, spend time enjoying family, never stop dating one another, pray often, and lean on one another at all times. 

What was the process like when it came to defining your roles for your business?

BM: That wasn’t easy for us, and it took us years of development before we finally obtained our roles, since we worked side by side for so long. Over time, we learned one another’s strengths in business and with other individuals. 

What does your typical day together look like?

CM: Our typical day has come a long way from what it used to look like. Most mornings, we take time to enjoy a cup of coffee together before we go into work mode. Billy will head off to either the office for meetings or out in the field, and a lot of his day is spent dealing with new clients, existing clients, our land development projects, and mounds of paperwork. Meanwhile, my day is focused on keeping our companies on track behind a computer screen. 

How has working together impacted your relationship? 

CM: It has strained and strengthened our relationship. At times of growth, it can strain the relationship no matter how strong of a couple we are, but at other times, when things run more smoothly or we reach goals, it strengthens our relationship as we get to celebrate achievements together.

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Alnoor and Gina Dhanani

Photo by Rich Smith

The Dhananis

Alnoor & Gina

The Double Cola Company

Working together since 2004

 

What are some of the benefits and unique challenges of working together? 

GD: The saying “It’s lonely at the top” is often true. When we work together, I know that I have someone I can share ideas and concerns with and will receive honest and genuine feedback. Another benefit is having a friend to talk to when I’m stressed or having a rough day. I don’t have to wait until I get home to have someone trusted to talk to. 

What advice would you give someone about to embark on a venture where they will be working with their significant other? 

AD: The most important areas to be vigilant about are respect and professionalism. When the two of you are almost always together, it is easy to let personal emotions infiltrate your thinking, so one has to show respect for one another and always, always act professionally in the business environment.

What was the process like when it came to defining your roles for your company?

GD: The process was very deliberate and strategic. As our company has grown, we’ve felt the need to split the company into two divisions: domestic and international. I run our domestic operations and the overall day-to-day operations, and Alnoor runs the international side. 

What does your typical day together look like? 

AD: Since we are involved with different aspects of our business, we don’t see much of each other during work hours, except that we try to always spend our lunchtime together. Occasionally, we take quick walks around downtown and bounce ideas or thoughts off each other. 

How has working together impacted your relationship? 

GD: Working together has brought us closer. We’re partners in life and in running the business. We have mutual trust and respect for each other. Alnoor is my confidant, my mentor, my cheerleader, and my friend. It’s great to have your best friend there for everything.

How do you balance time spent professionally with personal time? 

AD: Like many things in our lives, it is always a balancing act, and we try our best not to let the routines of the office environment overwhelm our personal time. We have a very healthy pool of family and friends whom we constantly interact with. 

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Lawton and Karen Haygood

Photo by Rich Smith

The Haygoods

Lawton & Karen

Boathouse Rotisserie & Raw Bar, Sugar’s Ribs, and SideTrack 

Working together since 1995

 

What are some of the benefits and unique challenges of working together? 

KH: Being married, you already have a great foundation for a partnership because you know how to communicate, and you know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. You also benefit from having someone who is always there when you want to discuss an idea. Of course, it can be challenging to not bring work home, but when food is “work,” it’s not all that bad!

What was the process like when it came to defining your roles for the business?

LH: This was pretty easy for us to decide. My kitchen experience basically dictated that as my primary role. Karen’s flight attendant career certainly taught her the necessities of organizing staff and pleasing customers.

What advice would you give someone about to embark on a venture where they will be working with their significant other?  

KH: Openly communicate what succeeding in the industry will require. Owning a business is a labor of love. You don’t go home because you’re tired. You go home when the job is done. You also can’t do it alone. So, hire dedicated employees. Train them well. Pay them well. And keep it fun! Having fun and working can overlap.  

What does your typical day together look like?

LH: After having our morning coffee together, we start by studying reports from managers on the previous day’s events. We then discuss any necessities regarding those events. Next, we work individually (or together) on organizational items, improvement of products, employee issues, and new opportunities. Later in the day, we have dinner and enjoy each other’s company.  

How do you balance time spent professionally with personal time?

KH: Decades of practice! We do a lot of working lunches but keep dinners free. And when we really need a break, we get out of town. Traveling serves as a great source for new recipes and design ideas. It also gives us a chance to enjoy time with our grandchildren.

How do you encourage and motivate each other professionally? How does this differ from creating drive on a personal level?  

LH: This has never been a challenge for us. At work, we constantly bounce ideas off each other, and we have great confidence in and respect for each other’s work. Creating on a personal level is very similar. 

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Stacy and Wendy Beaty

Photo by Emily Pérez Long

The Beatys

Stacy & Wendy

Beaty Fabricating, Inc.

Working together since 2004

 

What are some of the benefits and unique challenges of working together?

SB: When we got married, we became one. The power of two minds is better than one. It’s all about balance. What one of us lacks in an area, the other has strength.

How do you balance time spent professionally with personal time?

WB: We balance our professional and personal time by having lunch together almost every single day and dinner together every night, but we understand that both may require a business discussion. I always try to make our evening dining experiences extra special with al fresco candlelight dinners with classical music.

What was the process like when it came to defining your roles for your business?

SB: Defining the roles in the business was easy. Wendy being our CEO and managing the day-to-day business activities allows me to manage sales and designs for the company.

What advice would you give someone about to embark on a venture where they will be working with their significant other?

WB: To make things work, first of all, there must be utmost discipline from both people. The other person must be your best friend. If you do not have a deep trust, respect, and confidence in them, it will never work. Me is not in the equation. It must be we.

What does your typical day together look like?

SB: Our typical day starts at 5:15 a.m. We make the bed together every day. I text Wendy as soon as I get to the office around 6:20 to tell her that I hope she has a great day and that I love her, and she always reciprocates. Every workday is a minimum of 12 hours – sometimes 16 or 17 during the week – but we always sit down together in the evenings for a nice date-night dinner, and we have lunch together when time allows. When we both work this many hours, it is very important that we end the day with a little relaxation and time together.

How has working together impacted your relationship?

WB: I could not imagine not sharing our business and days together. It helps us to understand, love, and respect each other more. Our personal life is strengthened because we see what each other goes through in a professional capacity during the day.

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Travis and Bernadette Upton

Photo by Emily Pérez Long

The Uptons

Travis & Bernadette 

WEAVE Dance Company

Working together since 2013

 

What advice would you give someone about to embark on a venture where they will be working with their significant other?

TU: Do it! The benefits outweigh the challenges. If you are madly in love, don’t you want to spend most of your time with that other person?

How do you balance time spent professionally with personal time?

BU: It’s a challenge! One thing we are learning to incorporate into our weekly lives is honoring and respecting our version of a “sabbath” rest, which also aligns with our faith. This gives us the much-needed time for rest, recreation, family, and essentially all things that are non-work-related. 

How has working together impacted your relationship?

TU: In every way imaginable. Our work relationship began just before we were married. It has always been our normal. We have gotten to learn each other in an extremely accelerated manner because of this. We know each other very well, and although we have only been married for eight years, it’s as if we have been married for 20 because we spend so much time together. 

What was the process like when it came to defining your roles for your company?

BU: We are still defining them somewhat, but Travis is primarily on the entrepreneurial side (creating the vision and broad structure of WEAVE), and I do a lot of execution (teaching dance classes and administrative work). These roles mostly define themselves. We like to say Travis is the architect and I’m the builder, and in addition to that, we both have a million other roles. We do bump heads sometimes, but 80% of the time, we are working on separate parts of the business.

How do you encourage and motivate each other professionally?

TU: This is something we could probably do a better job at, but we do remind each other often that the smarter we work now, the more freedom we will have in the future to design what work looks like to us. 

What are some of the unique challenges of working together?

BU: Many times our marriage relationship and business relationship collide, and it can be difficult to separate those. We are learning to recognize when this happens, and with that, recognizing the need to schedule specific times during the day just for us and just for the business. Because we are small business owners, there is always something that you could work on, so it can be difficult to turn it off.

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