Business/Partners: Debbie and Darren Solomon
So Darren, what’s it like working with your wife?
Husband: I can think of many “F” words to describe the experience: Fun, Frustrating at times, Friendship-building, Fabulous. I’ve learned a lot about communication, balance and compromise while working with my wife. We both have different strengths and figuring out how best to support and nurture each other’s talents has been the most challenging yet rewarding experience.
Aww, stop giving me a toothache you guys. Debbie, is he always that sweet? What is Darren really like to work with?
Wife: Oh boy…where do I begin. He drives me nuts and inspires me all at the same time. We have very different communication styles which makes it a challenge at times but it also has helped us to become better communicators (to each other and to our employees and customers). We complement each other very well as my background relates more to the focus of our business which is children and education and his background relates more to the business in general as he is amazing with leadership and business development/marketing. Together, we feel we make a great team!
All this sounds really lovey-dovey. But like any business team and married couple I’m sure there are times you want to rip each other’s heads off, right?
Husband: There have been so many big fights. Probably the most amusing was when we were a few weeks away from opening up our second Kid Ventures location. Opening a new space can be extremely exciting and stressful all at the same time. We’d had probably been working 3 days straight (by that I mean, maybe 5 hours of sleep in 3 days as we are very hands on in the build-out phase). We were picking up some fast food breakfast and the restaurant forgot to give us hot sauce for our breakfast burrito. I (Darren) freaked when we realized it was not in the bag as we got to the worksite. Debbie stepped back and said, “Take it easy, I’ll go and get you hot sauce and I freaked again and said, “No…don’t go” and shoved the entire breakfast burrito in my mouth as she drove off. After a few minutes we both sat on the sidewalk and laughed uncontrollably at how ridiculous we were being….just one of many funny stories as business partners
Hmm, hot. But in all seriousness, I’m sure that knowing how to make each other laugh comes in handy in diffusing business brawls. What about balancing the bedroom part?
Wife: Make sure you commit time to yourselves where you do not talk about the business. Schedule this time (date night, walk etc.) as it is crucial to remembering that you are life partners first and business partners second.
Makes sense. So how do you divvy up your “secondary” roles?
Husband: Make sure staff are crystal clear on what role each of you play within the company and try to stick to those roles so there is no confusion or communication breakdown. Also make sure you have the same goals for the company and timelines so that there is clarity to the commitment you are about to make and what you both plan to get out of this experience.
Wife: Write down each other’s strengths and weaknesses so you can identify clearly what you think your biggest contributions will each be to the company and partnership.
Husband: Have a formal weekly meeting (even if it’s 10 minutes each week) as you would with any other partner or employee to plan for the coming week.
If you could talk to your former husband-wife selves before getting into business together, what would you tell them?
Wife: Don’t do it!! JK. Would probably say to really spend time being honest with each other about how best to form this husband and wife duo. Seek outside advice from advisors and mentors. Create a plan for not only the business but for personal and family time as well.