valentine's day

On Valentine’s Day one sometimes wonders how it is to be working with a spouse.  Spending lots of time at home together could make spending the whole day together difficult. Yes or no? According to an article on (Feb. 2016) 3 million small businesses in America are run by couples!

By Rhonda Sanderson

Dan Driscoll of Greer, South Carolina is a civil engineer who got in on the burgeoning wired and wireless communications industry early on and sold a successful business in 2001. Never a slacker, Dan holds a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

Wife Jan Driscoll was a teacher and a coach and loved her career.  Once Dan sold his business they made a big decision.  They decided to buy a franchise and run the business together.  Risky?  Maybe but the couple thought it through.

They decided to go for it and in 2005 Dan bought Paul Davis, the nation’s number one restoration services franchise that suited him fine with his degree and knowledge in civil engineering. Jan hopped on board in 2006 and since then the couple has built an extraordinarily successful enterprise that gives back to veterans among other things.  The couple services the counties of Greenville, Spartanburg, Laurens, Cherokee and Union in South Carolina.

So how does this experienced and intelligent couple keep their cool while working together and not let it spill into their marriage?

“Evaluate your skills,” shared Jan Driscoll. ”Once we raised our kids, we looked at each other’s skills and respect for what each of us had to bring to the table. We decided to put those to use.”

“Get used to working as one.  In the past we each had a job and a paycheck that was a ‘backup’.  We couldn’t think like that anymore.”

“Defer to the other’s opinion in his/her area of responsibility,” said Dan Driscoll. ”It’s easy to let ego get in the way and correct each other. You each have to decide what you do best and those are the tasks you each embrace.”

Another couple, Mark and Cate Stewart of Canton, Georgia, opened a Pillar To Post Home Inspectors franchise serving that community.  Mark is an Army veteran and has been a police officer for more than 23 years while Cate runs a successful small business specializing in residential and commercial rehabs, repairs and renovations.

“Mark decided that owning a small-business together would help to better our lives and the future of our family and since my business is already tied into the fields of construction and real estate, it made the move and the transition to Pillar to Post Home Inspectors an easy choice,” said Cate Stewart.

The Stewarts are new to this arrangement having each had separate careers for years. They have quickly learned what it takes to make it work:

“Set goals together,” said Mark Stewart. “It doesn’t work when you can’t agree on the best course of action so it is important to be on the same page from the beginning.”

“Work together to find a solution. It only takes a small disagreement to want to hit your partner with a hammer so it is necessary to find an amicable solution and talk through problems as a team.”

“Don’t forget to laugh,” added Cate Stewart. “Don’t let any work arguments run over into personal time; be sure to make time to be a couple outside of work hours.”

Alpharetta, Ga. residents, David and Jennifer Flax chose to open a business together after the recession hit.  Not wanting to start from scratch, David, a licensed certified public accountant by trade, and Jennifer a former IT professional and stay-at-home mom started looking at franchises and came across Window Genie, among the nation’s fastest-growing home services franchises that specializes in window cleaning, window tinting and pressure washing for commercial and residential clients. Their company services Alpharetta, Buckhead, Brookhaven, Buford, Canton, Chamblee, Cumming, Doraville, Duluth, Dunwoody, East Cobb, Gainesville, Johns Creek, Midtown, Milton, Norcross, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Sugar Hill, Suwannee, Smyrna, Tucker, Vinings, and Woodstock.

David cashed in every last dime of his 401(k) and they opened the first Window Genie franchise in the Atlanta area. Now, six years later, their efforts have paid off. The Flaxes are the second largest U.S. franchisee in the Window Genie system.

“I owned my own business prior to Window Genie and did it alone.  I needed help. I wanted help. I always felt stranded and lonely on an island by myself which was VERY depressing.  Jennifer has an IT background (programming) and hadn’t worked outside the home in many years.  She was a stay at home mom.  Unless we were going to get jobs at $10 an hour we had no choice but to give this a go together as equal partners,” shared David Flax.

Their tips:

“We decided from the start to be equal partners and divide responsibilities,” said David Flax. “We are an incredible team and are each other’s sounding board. Where I am weak, Jennifer is strong and vice versa. I focus on strategy, sales and manage our technicians. Jennifer is the voice of our company who interfaces with nearly every customer.”

“Early on, we learned to not share an office,” adds David. “Having our own workspace is essential and we have one rule: Don’t bring work home! We have two teenagers and when we leave work, we are done. Our home is our sanctuary.”

Overall the advice seems to be, “Go for it. You should feel like you are going into business with your best friend and your back is covered,” offered David Flax.

Rhonda Sanderson is the founder of SandersonPR, specializing in franchise systems since 1986. @SandersonPR.