How To Successfully Work With Your Spouse
I think it’s a safe bet to say that most real estate professionals are married to their work. But what about when you’re married to your work and to your team mate? Most people you ask will probably say they could never work with their spouse; if structured properly, it can actually be an extremely smart and cost effective move.
Five years ago I quit my corporate office job in the NYC fashion industry to be home with our new baby. I quickly learned that being a full time stay at home mom wasn’t for me -but going back my full time job with a long commute wasn’t an option either. After a long conversation with my husband Nick and my mother in law, who at the time was our team owner, I decided to join the family business and get my real estate license.
I have now been working on and off with my husband Nick, in some capacity, for the past 5 years and recently we branched off and formed our own team. Unlike before, where I was in and out of the industry depending on where our life was at that moment, I have now taken on a more hands on role in our business. It hasn’t always been the easiest road and we still hit bumps at times, but now that we’ve figured out what works, we have figured out HOW to work.
Here are a few secrets on how to make working with your spouse both beneficial and enjoyable!
1- Find balance that works for YOU
We all know that work/life balance in real estate for the most part, is a lie. We also know that you can’t always separate work life and home life- especially when you and your spouse work together. Issues are bound to pop up and you don’t always have the luxury to just turn-off. Because of the nature of this industry, setting realistic expectations upfront is of the utmost importance. Creating your own version of balance is key and balance is going to look different for every couple. For us, balance on a day to day basis just isn’t attainable, but balance over all is what we try to achieve. To do that, we like to look at the week ahead and determine how busy of a week it’ll be and schedule ‘’us’’ and family time accordingly. We may not get any personal time that week, so we make sure to put it in the calendar the following week. We treat our personal time as appointments- once it’s on the calendar we work around it. We also find the small pockets of time during a busy week to shut off from work and re-connect; shutting our phones off at lunchtime and chatting over some sushi, or a quick fro-yo date with our kids after school are two of our favorite quick dates.
2-Divide and Conquer!
Before even starting your business together, sit down and very seriously decide who will be responsible for what and think about if this will actually work. What are each of your strengths and weaknesses? What unique work qualities do you bring to the table? What do you both want to do and not want to do? Those are some of the basic questions you should be asking each other to really define what your working relationship will look like. This part came easy to us- my background is in design and marketing and I personally don’t love the client aspect of real estate. I would rather jump into a lake in the middle of winter than partake in cold calling, lead generating and talking to buyers and sellers. It’s just not appealing to me. On the other hand my husband is not too organized, hates paperwork, and never had time for proper marketing. We quickly decided that my taking on the managing director role and all marketing duties and Nick would take on the lead-gen and team leader role, we could work more efficiently. We both get to do the parts of the job we enjoy and don’t have to worry about doing the things we don’t enjoy and frankly, aren’t good at.
3-Take time apart!
I know this seems counterproductive to suggestion number one, but when it comes to working and living together, do you really want to be with your spouse 24/7? Sure, maybe when you first start dating and you’re in that lovey-dovey googly eye phase, but 10 years and 2 kids later? No thanks. Sometimes you need (and want) some space. Seriously though, working in separate spaces, or going on separate appointments allows you to get the work done that you need to get done without feeling smothered by one another. Since I focus on our admin work, I get distracted when Nick is on the phones and in turn Nick can’t focus on calls when I’m scanning/printing/typing. So, many times I stay at our home office while he goes to our team office.
4- Respect everyone involved
It should be a no-brainer that you should respect one another as that is one of the foundational building blocks of marriage. It’s also especially important when working together when married. But what if you’re married and you have an entire team? It becomes imperative to be respectful of everyone involved. Never let personal or work disagreements or arguments become an issue in your team setting. You have an argument at home about something? Leave it at home. Maybe that’s a good day for one of you to stay at back when the other goes to the office. You don’t agree with how to handle a rude client? That’s fine, just remember to keep it civil, especially in front of your team members. It’s not only unprofessional to argue or bicker in front of them, it’s uncomfortable for them as well.
5- Marriage ALWAYS comes first
Always, always, always put your marriage before work. It’s extremely easy to become so work-focused that you start to become more of co-workers and roommates than spouses. If you add kids to the mix, this can become an even bigger challenge. That is why it is so important to remember that before your business, was your marriage. One way we keep a healthy marriage and working relationship is to check in with each other on a daily basis on a personal level. The minute one of you is feeling disconnected, find out the source and discuss what the persons needs are to fix that. This doesn’t mean we never argue or bicker, but if I stop and take the time to say “hey, you’ve been a little preoccupied at night lately and I feel like I’m really taking on the bulk of the house work on top of our real estate work, and it’s frustrating me. Would it be possible for you to focus on XYZ first and then you can go back to your emails?” it allows us to have an open dialogue without the annoyance or resentment. Also, make sure you’re always being honest with one another. Sure, saving some money not having to hire an admin is great, but not at the cost of your marriage. If working together ever starts to get in the way of a healthy marriage, take that step back to reevaluate if this is the best idea for your family.
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