Lured by the irresistible drama of marital combat, our staff gathered around us. Diana and I were squaring off over where to place a newly consigned desk. She wanted it moved to the back corner of the showroom with all the other office furniture. I thought the desk was so stunning that every single shopper who stepped in the door would want to gaze upon its beauty and buy it immediately.
As our argument escalated, one heated volley after another, I could see out of the corners of my narrowed eyes that our staffers’ heads were swiveling from side to side like onlookers at Wimbledon. Finally, in a final verbal stab meant to break my stubborn opponent, I turned to the staff. “Well,” I challenged them. “What do you think?”
Bad move. I knew it immediately. Everyone froze in place, panic on their faces. It was a loser’s move, a last jab to save my pride. The staff knew as well as me: Diana is the merchandising expert at FCG. Arranging showrooms is not my forté. What was I thinking? I did a quick about-face.
“You’re right,” I conceded. Then, with as much dignity as I could muster in the moment, I looked at the staff and said, “I’ll help move the desk to the back.”
Diana and I have been working together for thirteen years at FCG, and we’ve learned a lot about running a business together. Here are some of our secrets to making it work:
Create a division of labor: I handle human resources, operations, and accounting. I approve all incoming consignments. Diana is responsible for merchandising. Among other things, she’s the authority on how our three showrooms look and operate. She also is our new-product buyer, including art and accessories. I do my best to stay clear from her areas of expertise and she from mine.
Create space: Diana and I are rarely together during the business day. This is by design. Among other things, it prevents meddling in a partner’s area of expertise. I tried to muscle in on the desk decision because I happened to be passing through the store in Natick. Too much of any kind of meddling would strain our respectful working relationship.
New Tasks? Divide and Conquer: Diana recently took on the challenge of managing our Instagram account, an increasingly important social media tool for home furnishing companies. As our business has grown, we’ve learned that dividing up new responsibilities is a necessary practice. And we’ve learned to trust each other to act in the company’s best interest. No second-guessing.
Make Major Decisions Together: Though it’s important to have separate roles and responsibilities, certain mission-critical decisions should be made together. Desk placement? Certainly not. That was a waste of valuable energy. But there should be thoughtful debate about big issues like how to manage growth.
Use and Appreciate Your Biggest Asset: Your spouse, like you, has committed time and energy to the business. No one else has as much to gain or lose. Learning how to make those big decisions together is a vital skill. You’ll make some mistakes, but you’ll learn together. Having an experienced and trustworthy partner in your business is a luxury. Protect that partnership at all costs.