Anti-Divorce Day - husband and wife businesses

Articulate

Colin Gilchrist, whose wife Eona Craig works part-time with him on Articulate, the Smarta 100 winning business that makes slot-sided picture frames for children's artwork that are exported internationally and stocked by Tesco and Letterbox, among others.

What's the key to your successful husband-wife working relationship?

Having different interests, influences and opinions, but being able to agree on what's common sense or sensible. We have totally different skillsets - combined two minds are greater than one. Eona has a keen eye for education and the way things look, and I'm more business-orientated. We tend to agree for the most part on work issues.

What are the highlights of working together?

The work-life balance is great - I save myself a commute every day, saving an enormous amount of time. I walk the dog when I like, I can collect the kids from school in the afternoon that's a real pleasure - it's just a joy. And winning awards! We won six awards last year, including being a Smarta 100 winner. Also the sense of achievement when you get a big retailer on board is really great. Neither of us have been in retail before so it's all interesting and new and exciting.

And the low points?

Having to work until midnight every night can be a bit daunting.  We're working now with America and China so the timezones mean I'm at the computer last thing at night and first thing in the morning. But personally I'm quite able to switch off from work.

How do you maintain boundaries between work and home life?

I could talk about work 24 hours a day but when Eona comes home from work [she also works in education], she says she doesn't want to talk about it. We don't have any rules, we just respect each other's boundaries.

Are all couples suited to working together? What advice would you give to other couples thinking of starting up together?

The thing is when you choose your life partner, you're choosing someone you're able to work with, because having a family is about the most stressful that can be! If you can't work with your partner then who can you work with?

I have a motto: JFDI - just f***ing do it! Nothing happens by itself. You have to get up and do it and don't be afraid of failure. If you fail, it's not the end of the world, you just have to keep pushing and pushing. It won't happen otherwise! 

Joe and Seph's Popcorn

Joseph Sopher and his wife Jackie run Smarta 100 winner Joe and Seph's Popcorn. They produce hand-made British popcorn and export it to a global market.

What's the key to your successful husband-wife working relationship?

We have totally different skills and so there is a natural split of areas of responsibility that we take ownership for. As a result, we don't tread on each other's toes all that much. The other key point is that having mutual respect for the work that each of us does.

What are the highlights of working together?

As a fast growing successful startup, there seems to be something exciting happening every day whether it be getting a new listing at a retailer or creating a new flavour of popcorn that we all love. We get a great buzz sharing those moments together.

 And the low points?

Haven't found anything too bad yet… apart from the boxes of popcorn taking over our entire house!

How do you maintain boundaries between work and home life?

Not possible! As the business is growing we find that we discuss things throughout the day (and night), weekdays (and at the weekend)! The Christmas and New Year break was a great opportunity for us all to switch off though and our New Year's resolution is to try to switch off once we get home!

Are all couples suited to working together? What advice would you give to other couples thinking of starting up together?

We think that you need to have a really solid relationship to be able to take the strain of working together. You also have to have belief in each other's abilities, without that you'll end up micro-managing each other! At the same time as all this, you both must have the same passion and enthusiasm for your product or service that you are creating.

Navy Blur

Xander and Christine Neal are husband and wife wedding and commercial photographers. Their unique and quirky photos see them booked all over the UK and Ireland. 

What's the key to your successful husband-wife working relationship?

Have fun! We're so fortunate that in our line of work it helps to be lively, personable and even a little silly at times, so it's great to be working alongside your husband/wife to bounce off each other's energy. We also had to learn to keep a good work/life balance, it was no fun going out for dinner and spending time talking business, so when you leave the office keep everything work related there too!

What are the highlights of working together?

We love it! It's fun to be sat at a computer next to each other, and if some great music comes on we can have a bit of a sing-a-long and dance to it. When we're out shooting, again it's the best thing in the world to be with your best friend, meeting new people and creating some awesome photos for them. Weddings can sometimes produce some pretty unsociable hours or be in pretty far away places, so it's great that we get to be out those hours and do the long car journeys together. 

 And the low points?

Honestly, (honestly) there aren't that many low points. Mainly its a creative difference, we're currently re-branding our site and the last re-brand before this one we definitely had a few disagreements! Looking back at them though they're always secondary issues and never worth holding a grudge. Obviously, with spending pretty much 24 hours with each other every single day in life, we're going to have off days with each other when we're tired or ill, but above all we actually appreciate having each other to talk to through the lower points of our work. It's good to have that other person to pick you up when you're having a bad day.

 How do you maintain boundaries between work and home life?

 That's an area we still struggle with now! It's the most difficult when your office is in your house, for some people they have offices in completely separate buildings to their home, so it's a different environment and when you "leave" for the day, its physical. Where as home-offices aren't like that, sometimes it's easy to just nip in and turn on the computer to do that extra bit of work for someone or check new emails that have come through. If you're stressed in your office, you're in theory going to be stressed at home. We try to have a full lunch break, not just eating at our desks, and keep all 'work' related things in one room and not scattered around the house, otherwise that's what you'll see your whole house as. Also, once work has finished, we turn off emails on our phone. That was the biggest change, because we may get great enquiries during the evening that can really excite and or disappoint us (because we're unavailable) those emotions we find can really effect us and even when trying to sleep so in-turn we wake up really tired (bit of a vicious circle!)

Are all couples suited to working together? What advice would you give to other couples thinking of starting up together?

 Xander - I don't think all couples are suited to working together, not to be negative at all! In all honesty, if I (Xander) was married to myself, it wouldn't work! I think we are blessed that for us it just works, we haven't had to make big adjustments into how the other person works, it just works, and its awesome! Advice would probably be to be completely honest with how you think you'll both be, after that just go for it. It's what we did, and at the end of the day you can't fully know until you jump out the boat! Another piece of advice is to talk through everything, even the silly, ridiculous annoyances you may have got from your other half, otherwise that builds resentment and you really don't want that!

Christine - As much as we love working together, we know that there are some couples more suited to having their own separate day jobs.. it's how they function! When starting up in business together, always talk everything though and don't take disagreements personally... and most definitely don't take any hard feelings into your personal life. Above everything else, enjoy it, be so grateful for those extra hours in a day you get to be together and be thankful for all the new experiences that come from working together. 

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