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Making a business relationship work

Steve Tripoli Feb 14, 2007

Making a business relationship work

Steve Tripoli Feb 14, 2007

BOB MOON: So if you can’t, or would rather not dine with your true love this Valentine’s Day, perhaps your relationship could use a little work. Imagine waking up each morning next to a partner . . . who’s also your business partner?

At the Marketplace Entrepreneurship Desk, our Steve Tripoli found out how some couples manage to both love and labor together.

STEVE TRIPOLI: I think I’ll let the people who’ve done it be your guides today.

Maureen McGuiness and Peter St. Martin own two busy restaurants in Northampton, Massachusetts. They’ve been business partners for 24 years, marriage partners for 20.

In one of their restaurants’ bustling dining rooms, they talked about what it takes. Peter first.

PETER ST. MARTIN: We definitely had to figure out how to work together, and how to live together. I mean that wasn’t easy for the first couple of years. It was a learning process and we did figure out how to give each other the space, that each other needed in order to be able to work together.

TINA TURNER: I think it’s gonna work out fine (it’s gonna work out fine) . . .

MAUREEN MCGUINESS: It’s not that we’re so great, but it’s just that we just keep plowing through. Even during the difficult times. And when I can’t plow anymore, he does it. And when he can’t, I do it, you know. That is really so much strength to run a business with.

Peter says once you get that far, the rewards start kicking in.

ST. MARTIN: For me, I feel like our relationship has more to it than most peoples’ relationship. Whereas I feel like for couples who go off and work their own jobs, I feel like they don’t have the same closeness and respect for each other that Maureen and I have been able to develop.

Maureen says business couples should remember two things: Have a passion for what you do. And really stop to appreciate life.

TINA TURNER: I keep on telling ya I think it’s gonna work out fine I can feel it now . . .

Out in Akron, Ohio, Sage and Rocky Lewis have run their web marketing firm, sagerock.com, for eight years. They’ve been married for 10.

Sage and Rocky say spousal business partnerships definitely aren’t for everyone. Handling spillover between the two lives is one reason.

ROCKY LEWIS: It’s probably either going to work out terrifically or be a colossal calamity. You are integrating things that you have really no idea that are going to be integrated and, it intertwines your life in a way that is much more deep than it ever had been before.

TINA TURNER: I think it’s gonna work out fine . . .

SAGE LEWIS: Every time there is a stress in the business, it is a personal stress. You know it’s not just like, “Oh . . . you know, things at work are kind of hairy.” No, it’s like, “My life is hairy.” So that kind of crossover is sort of magnified, times a thousand, when you cross your business and your personal lives together.

Rocky Lewis says any spousal work partnership has to have a strong personal bond underneath.

SAGE LEWIS: Because, when the chips start falling at work . . . I mean, if you have any little issues or if you’re prone to conflict in your relationship once you add the work stress on top . . . I mean, it could just be a house of cards. If you’re not good communicators.

So listeners, do you qualify?

ST. MARTIN: Rocky came up with this great litmus test. If you can’t go on vacation with your spouse without a big fight erupting, we don’t recommend that you seriously consider going into business together. Because it’s not gonna work, it’s not gonna work. You have to just want to always be with that person. And furthermore, you don’t want to really be with anybody else as much.

I’m Steve Tripoli for Marketplace.

TINA TURNER: Yeah, yeah, it’s got to work out . . .

HELP US TELL THE STORY: Have you started a businss?

The front of Sylvester’s Restaurant

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