Thinking of going into business with your ‘significant other’? It could be the best decision of your life – or your worst!
Apparently, when you ask about married couples running a business together, you’ll get one of two answers; it’s either the best thing that ever happened to them, or the worst.
There doesn’t seem to be much of a middle road. Either you run into that always-smiling couple who’ve ended up earning loads of money from writing books and giving talks around the world entitled “How To Run A Successful Business With Your Spouse”, or you meet the bitter divorcee scarred by the painfully slow disputes about who contributed what to the business and so deserved to get most of the spoils.
Yet, when it comes to running a company together, married couples are not that unique. “We always take the same approach, whether they’re a married couple, best friends or people who don’t actually know each other particularly well,” explains Andrew Webster, a Business Advisor with Business Gateway Perth. “As with any partnership, it’s important that you clearly define who does what, so there’s no doubt whose responsibility each of the major tasks is; to define the key roles very clearly and to make sure they’re actually covered by somebody who knows what they’re doing.”
THE ROSE HOUSE
Two of Andrew’s recent clients are a case in point; in April 2014, John and Audrey Maestri set up The Rose House, a flower shop selling traditional and contemporary floral arrangements. She has 25 years experience in the floristry trade; he, with a 24 year career in the Black Watch and Royal Regiment of Scotland, brings something rather different to the table. “John is strong on the organisational skills,” says Andrew. “Lists for this, schedules for that; I did think that, between the two of them, they did have pretty good complementary skills to bring to the business.”
Working with his wife had been a long-term plan, according to John Maestri. “We always thought we could take advantage of Audrey’s career once I left the Army,” the 43 year old explains. “Running a florist is completely different to what I’m used to but Audrey’s experience is vast and together I’m confident we can offer Perth a high-end flower shop with an emphasis on design and quality. It can be difficult for people when they leave the Military, but I’m very excited about our business and the new opportunities it will bring.”
With confirmed bookings for summer weddings, plus “a lot of interest” from people (including mates in the Military community), John is certainly confident about the future. As, indeed, is their business advisor. “They were so focused, very clear on what they want to achieve, very driven and determined,” says Andrew, who helped the couple put together their business plan. “There’s a good chance they will make a go of it.”
John and Audrey also had two other vital characteristics needed to become a successful business partnership: a common goal, and a good personal relationship. “They were clearly on the same wavelength,” Andrew points out, “with a clear vision of where they want the business to go. Sometimes people assume what the other person wants, and in fact it’s not. John and Audrey got on well, though, which I think is key to the whole thing. It would be dangerous ground for the business if they didn’t actually like each other.”
Of course, the business doesn’t necessarily come after the wedding. Soon after setting up a Petpals franchise in Middlesbrough in 2013, Paul Yates met his second wife, Theresa Freeman, who subsequently left her job to run the business alongside her new husband!
Returning to civilian life after a 23 year career in the RAF, the former Sergeant was a single parent who wanted to find work that could keep him in the one place for his son’s sake. “As much as I wanted to run my own business, I did not want to start from scratch by myself,” he says. “I thought franchising was the perfect solution, enabling me to be my own boss whilst still having the benefits of backup from a franchisor.” Thanks to a chance meeting with a fellow dog-walker who was already a franchisee, Paul was introduced to Petpals, a leading provider of mobile professional pet care.
“Theresa and I couldn’t be happier,” says Paul. “Working with Petpals allows us both to be our own boss, unlike with the RAF. We have formed such a great partnership and see our job as more of a lifestyle than work. Every day, we sit and plan our schedule together which, on the odd occasion may cause disagreement but the majority of the time it’s not a problem! It’s important we have at least one day a week separate just to keep us sane and not feel like we live in each other’s pockets, “but the good definitely outweighs the bad. We make such a good team that I couldn’t imagine doing this without her.”
Petpals franchise support manager, Tracey Dawber agrees: “We saw from the outset that Paul had the makings of a good businessman, as well as being exceptional with animals. The duo has had an outstanding first year, from taking dogs into a Hospice to visit patients, to co-sponsoring charity dog walks and helping to raise thousands of pounds for Hounds for Heroes. This is just the beginning. We are eager to see how their business grows and will be here to offer support whenever they need it.”