Running a company as a couple. A reflection on how we've done it for 10 years!
As you may have read here on Monday, SYDCON is celebrating our 10 year Anniversary. To expand on that today I thought I would offer some insight on how we got to the ten-year mark. Let's face it, starting a company is never easy. Especially if you are doing that while working full-time for another firm and raising a young family in the beginning of an economic downturn.
As you can see from the picture (senior prom), Dave and I have been together a LONG TIME! When the idea of SYDCON was a spark in our imagination, Dave and I had a pretty full plate. I was a full-time stay at home Mom to two very young kids and Dave worked full-time plus for a local firm as a web developer. As Dave's skill developed and he added in freelancing of his own as well as his company "loaning" him out to non-profits they supported, his time was being stretched. For many of the independent freelance projects, they blossomed into projects that couldn't just be managed after hours or on weekends. The projects also could not be managed by Dave while he worked full-time for his employer. We were growing, although at that time we had no idea into what. SYDCON, actually existed prior to 2004, purely on a freelance scale.
During the early days, we could not afford to pay anyone to help Dave. So, to say it was getting overwhelming is an understatement. So, as a necessity I stepped into shoes I was not exactly ready for or necessarily qualified for. Prior to being a stay at home Mom, I was a high-level executive assistant to CEO's in industries like tech, marketing, and sales. I worked hand in hand with marketing departments and also worked for many years as the right hand to the founder and CEO of tech consulting firm. So, I had some background that could help us. I had the people skills, the admin skills and most of all I had faith in my husband's abilities and believed we could make something out of whatever it was we were doing. So, Dave had the programming skills and I had a mixture of some of the rest.
So, in those early days, I functioned has Dave's Executive Assistant, receptionist, errand runner, secretary, and sales staff. All with kids crawling around. I called on the information I had gathered and experiences of working with marketing heads, etc to benefit what we were doing. It became apparent that my admin skills could easily get Dave in the door at many companies interested in us. And, it became even more apparent that if I could get Dave in the door, he could close the deal. So, we started outgrowing the time we had to do this on a part-time basis.
There are many companies out there that are "Family owned & operated". These days there are more and more that are run by couples and/or spouses. Many people wonder how we do it. Face it, we spend almost all of our time together. There is no hiding in the office for "me time' or to cool off. We divide the business duties like we do the household and family duties. We each have our strengths and we use them to our advantage. We use a divide and conquer like we do with the kids. But, we always make major decisions together. This isn't just a job for either of us, this is something we worked hard to build to provide for our family.
Let's face it, not everyone can work day in and day out with their spouse or significant other. Not only do you have the typical family dynamics that come into play, you have a work environment to consider as well. Working together make it tough to leave the business at the office. As a result, our kids are learning about business life and responsibilities at a young age because they are constantly exposed to it. You may wonder if after ten plus years of this if we are sick of it or each other. Nah, if anything it's made us stronger and brought us closer. We are in this business together for the long haul just like we are in our marriage and family. This is who we are and what we do to support our family. Many new prospective clients find this fascinating and love it. They say they like the fact that the owners are so hands on and that it is a family operation. In the course of our ten years, we have worked with many family businesses, although no other husband and wife teams. Startups are hard work and cost money. Sometimes you need to rely on your family to get to the next level, even if they lack experience. It's amazing what you can learn on a job you are thrown into if it means it's your sole source of income. Do you think you could work with your spouse or significant other full-time? Or maybe you already do, I would love to hear your stories, trials and errors, success and failures!