When people find out that as principals of Robinson-Robinson & Associates Sam and I are also a husband-wife team they ask, “How can you two work together?” Or sometimes the response is, “I could never work with my wife/husband.” We never thought too much about these comments until I read a Success.com online article (2013, Dec.) by Emma Johnson entitled, How to Make Husband-Wife Business Partnerships Work. In it, she quotes Marion McCallom Hampton, Ph.D., a partner at Banyan Family Business Advisors, who said, “Husband-and-wife business ownership duos can work swimmingly—but it’s kind of rare.” It made me realize Sam and I probably do have a rare relationship that makes our business work.
I will start first by saying we have never had an argument. There were no lovers’ quarrels while we dated for three years, and since we’ve been married we’ve had no spousal fights or disagreements over kids, finances, house chores, relatives, friends, habits/hobbies, or work. We didn’t realize this until our daughters mentioned it was something they had observed while growing up. It’s a pretty impressive track record considering we have been married for over 40 years and in business for 25.
Second, we really enjoy being with each other, which I think most husband-wife business teams would agree is necessary for success. Our business is located outside the home, about a 15-minute drive. Sam felt that as a minority-owned small business, having an office outside the home was important for credibility and a professional image. But even though our business is physically separated from home we run Robinson-Robinson & Associates practically 24/7 (so we have a home office, too). What we do at the office often continues at home–mornings, evenings, and weekends—and sometimes on vacation. I liken it to being “wired” to mobile devices; the business keeps us wired to it and each other. As a two-person shop the inability to socialize with others at work, plus the tendency to intersect the boundaries of home and business are probably the biggest work hazards that we deal with. Our solution is to simply take some “me time” for personal interests. Sam likes to play golf; I like to walk or go to the gym. I am also in grad school. We both take the time to get together with our friends and associates.
Finally, I think our success as a husband-wife team comes from knowing and trusting the strengths we each bring to the business. Sam and I are very different in personality and skill sets—proof that opposites do attract. He is a risk-taker, highly competitive, quick thinking, and decisive. The creation of Robinson-Robinson & Associates was his vision. He is good at thinking strategically, and can analyze problems with a broad view lens. He is also highly intuitive and can “read” a situation and the people involved. Sam handles planning, business development, and sales. I am a risk-avoider, non-competitive, and more of a deliberate, reflective thinker. I am very flexible, patient, pretty creative and a borderline perfectionist. I am good at tactical thinking, figuring how to get things done, paying attention to details, and following through after implementation. I handle all office operations, marketing, and communications. Even our work habits differ. He is an office early bird, and because I am a night owl I often work until late at night. We both are highly results-oriented and work on every search assignment and make decisions about the business together. We usually interface with candidates and corporate clients as a team, too. So, I think the secret to working well together has been this effective balance of our talents and character. But for the record, we could never play together. Sam plays to win. I play to play. We agreed a long time ago not to even try it. No thanks.