It's been a little over 4 years that my wife and I have been married and a little over 11 years that we've been together. Owning your own business, you tend to talk about numbers a lot, well those numbers are the ones I like to brag about most. We've owned UXC for 3 years now and what a ride it has been. We've had up's and down's and the expression "we've put our blood, sweat, and tears" into our business, couldn't be more true. But we also add a different dynamic that not all business owners have to deal with. Unlike most marriages, we work side-by-side FULL-TIME in the workplace. We drive to work together and come home together. Majority of any given day, we are with each other most of the day. In this post, I'd like to give you my perspective of running a business with your spouse and how it can effect your marriage.
In The Beginning, Things Were Looking Great...
In 2013, Brooke and I bought the business. We were officially business owners and it was the first thing Brooke and I ever OWNED together. It was a big moment. I remember the day we signed the papers, it was either use the money we had for a down payment for a home, or use it for a down payment for the business. We took the risk, used MOST of our savings on the down payment, and signed off on a contract stating we will continue to pay off the business for the next 5 years with monthly payments to the previous owner, Brooke's mother Julie. In hindsight, we should've asked a few more questions inquiring about the financials of the business, but we were young and excited to sign the papers and start a new chapter in our lives. Lesson's learned literally from day 1.
Brooke and I hit the ground running! We had the same vision for the store and we both wanted to get started right away. We started remodeling the shop, we started re-branding, we created new systems within the business, we starting throwing events that PACKED our shop and we never stopped. We loved what we were creating and enjoyed the new life of a business owner. You can basically call it our "Honeymoon Stage" because we were essentially blinded by the beautiful side of owning your own business and ignored some of the ugly parts such as: taxes, creating roles for each other, and being organized. So at first, if you asked us "How is it working together?", we'd say "Oh, we actually work really well together! We know it's not for everyone, but we love it!". Once again, so young, so naive..
After the first year of business, we brought sales up substantially, however, we goofed on our taxes and just wasn't quite as organized as we should've been. So we paid for it. Literally. $15k later, the IRS was happy. So the second year we got a little bit more serious. I stepped into the accounting side of things and Brooke focused majority of her time on the front of the shop and inventory. After a while, I realized everything we weren't doing right and it turned the glamorous idea of owning a business, into the reality of what owning a business really looks like. It's a monster. A beast. That will tear your life a part unless you get your shit straight and contain it from exploding in your face. It's a 24/7 job, but that's what we signed up for but it took us a year to figure that out.
Reality Sets In
So how does this relate to our marriage? The first year and a half, Brooke and I were on cloud nine! Creating, meeting new people, doing what we love, setting our own schedule, and making good money (remember we goofed on our taxes so we had extra money). When I say good money, I mean, we paid ourselves every time. It wasn't a lot, but we never worried about not paying ourselves. Then reality set it in, and our business account slowly got lower and lower because now we were paying properly to our taxes. And now, the end of the month was super scary. Bills, bills, bills. I quoted my Aunt last week saying "when you buy a business, you are essentially buying a job", and it really started to feel like that towards the end of year two.
Now with the stress level on a all-time high, those funny little jokes Brooke and I used to make to each other, weren't so funny anymore. Just like any other husband, I was overly protective of our business money so I would constantly critique what Brooke was buying or spending. And come on fellas, we all know that critiquing our wives isn't the easiest thing to do, let alone critiquing her on her job. Needless to say, I've received many "eye-rolls" and cold shoulders. The store has always been able to pay for itself, i.e. bills, employees, inventory. However, there are times we don't get paid, so you can imagine after working a long and hard month and NOT getting paid, well both of us are on edge. But for most marriages, or business partners, work is separate from the other, so when you go home, it's a breath of fresh air. Not in our case. Work never stops. Whether we are shooting emails out, making an Instagram post, going through the bank statements, etc. Work is constantly on our minds, especially when we have our own bills to pay.
What Have We Learned?
So let's get one thing straight, Brooke and I have a GREAT marriage! Obviously, we have our ups and downs just like everyone else, but I married my best friend and get to go through life with her! I couldn't ask for anything more! I just want to paint you an honest picture of what working with your spouse could be like. Obviously it's not the same for everyone, this is just our experience. And in our experience, we've learned a few things:
1. I miss hearing about her day!
Sounds cheesy but its true. Since we spend every day together working and outside of work, we never have stories to tell each other. Even if she goes off and gets coffee from Bluebeard I'm like "Soooo how was Bluebeard? Tell me EVERYTHING!". I want her to have a life separate from me, as I want to have a life separate from her. Not to sound like a dick, but it's true. She gets it. I look forward to the day that I get to hear her stories on a daily basis.
2. Roles Are Extremely Important
Creating separate roles for each other is crucial. If you can make it to where you can preform those roles actually separate, even better. Obviously, you're going to have to work with each other, but make sure you give yourself some space. I know Brooke LOVES being able to spend her Monday's shopping for the store without me. I don't think that's a bad thing. It's actually GREAT for us. As long as the work load is even and your both being productive without annoying the other, well then my friend, you found the secret to success!
3. Working Together Means Single Income
For us, this is a huge factor. Yes, we've grown our business substantially. Our following has only increased since we've taken over and, knocking on wood, UXC will be going into it's 12th year in business in 2017. Outside looking in, we are killing it and we must be financially stable. Here's the thing, most small business owners in Tacoma, at least that I know, all have a second form of income. Majority of them either have a spouse bringing in an income or their business operates without them as they work their other job. This is how UXC was able to survive before we took over. But now that Brooke and I work their full-time, we essentially need it to afford a full-time salary for both of us. However, I don't believe it will ever get to that point, and as you can imagine finances are always tight for us. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, I know everyone is financially tight. I'm just saying that the whole reason of us buying the store was to work together and do this full-time. So the idea of one of us stepping away and getting another job to help supplement our income, well it's just something that we haven't thought about for the last 3 years. We are more than willing, it would just be a huge change for us.
So here we are. I'm sitting at my dining table typing this, in hopes of a few things:
1. I want to turn this into a potential consulting position for myself or for a company to see what I'm doing, like what I'm doing, and just want to pick me up full-time. That way we aren't relying on a single income.
2. I want to be able to relieve Brooke from having to be at the shop all the time. Though she's typically only there five days a week, I want her to be able to take a day off when she wants or to be able to get back into her styling career without worrying about how it effects us financially. But as of right now, we can't afford her not to be at the shop.
In the end, I want to work with other creatives and utilize my skill set to help grow their businesses. All the while, being able to financially provide a second income for Brooke and I so that she can step out the box a little to utilize her skill sets as well. The "American Dream" right? I'm sick of dreaming. I want to turn that "dream" into REALITY. Until then, I'll be documenting the process.
What's The Light At The End Of The Tunnel?
Hearing about Brooke's day on a daily basis.
P.S. Love ya boo!