When we say MacCallum is a family firm, we really mean it. We’re talking “dad, son, and daughter-in-law” type family firm. If there’s one thing we know well—ahem, aside from the law—it’s working with family.
So, to celebrate Valentines Day, we wanted to connect with other couples who work together in our community. Fortunately, we didn’t have to look far: so many of our clients are doing work and life together. We reached out, they opened up. It was awesome. They served up the ups, downs, benefits, downsides, and brilliant life-hacks that come with making your life partner your business partner.
We spoke with:
Team Najafi: Sensei Ali & Senpai Kamelia, Owners of the KimNik Shotokan Karate Academy
Team Schellenberg: Gord, Financial Advisor CFP®, CLU®, and Sherry, Operations Manager, at Quasar Financial Planning Group
Team Ferguson: Dr. Renee, Vet, Matt, Director of Business Development, at Mountain View Veterinary Hospital
Team Matheson: Dana, CEO, and Laurel, Accountant, C&D Logistics
Team Bennett: Dan and Sue, Realtors® with Lower Mainland Living
Team English: Kayla and Tylor, Owners of Airside Event Spaces
Over the course of these revealing, funny, honest, comforting, and inspiring conversations we noticed a few trends and picked up a few ideas.
Here they are:
Opposites do tend to attract—and balance each other out
“I tend to think about decisions to the point where I can take too long,” says Matt Ferguson. “But Renee is like, ‘Let’s get this done!”
There are real business benefits to being this close
“Nobody’s got your back like your spouse,” says Renee. “We have the same business and family goals.”
“It’s a team and you’re both working for all of the same goals: build a business, take care of your kids, retire,” says Dana.
“Planning is easy for us. We know each other so well. Sometimes we do this just through eye contact,” says Ali.
“Nobody’s nose is getting bent out of shape because you’re working,” says Dan. “It’s so beneficial to have an understanding of what the other person is doing.”
And benefits at home are also real
“There was always one or both of us at every hockey game,” says Sue. “We had the luxury of always knowing that one of us would pick up the kids at 3 pm.”
“You can build a family culture in your business,” says Renee. “You can lead by example by putting your family first.”
“We have that mutual respect,” says Sherry. “He needs quiet time at home and I respect that. I understand what he goes through all day.”
“I can talk about things at work at such a deep level with him because he’s part of it and understands,” says Sophie.
“We have a routine,” says Gord. “I’m a cigar smoker, so that helps. We call that ‘the smoke break’.”
But all that closeness can be tough at work
“When you work with a spouse you talk to them differently than an employee,” says Dana. “I can get away with saying things I shouldn’t.”
“I see his inbox quadruple, the pressure from the clients and the legal team, and that he hasn’t even had a lunch break,” says Sophie. “And I also know he barely slept last night because the kids were up all night at different times and our kids really want him at their practice. That’s hard to see.”
…And at home!
“My kid once said, ‘Mom’s more fun when you’re not around. When you’re together all you talk about is business,’” says Dana.
“The after-hours stuff gets to be a bit much,” says Gord. “Before COVID, we’d travel and change our surroundings to take a break.”
But with time, you learn amazing lessons
“If it’s a private business, there’s a lot of grace to make it what you want it to be,” says Kamelia. “Remember, it’s not you who has to shine, it’s us who has to shine.”
“Learn to switch your moods, otherwise it’s super-hard,” says Ali. “It takes a lot of practice, but you can do it.”
“No silent treatment,” says Gord. “We’ve both tried it and it doesn’t work!”
“Whenever you have a task, make one of you the boss of that task,” says Matt. “For example, Renee is the vet, so she is the boss whenever it comes to the care of animals.”
“Talk and listen,” says Laurel. “Know that everybody’s opinion counts. Remember that sometimes people just need to be listened to.”
“If you have a partnership and you expect it to always be 50/50, forget it,” says Sue. “I’m sure if we looked at all the clients we’ve brought in, it would work out to about 50/50, but we don’t focus on that.”
“There’s nothing wrong with fighting,” says Dan. “It’s healthy. And when you have kids, it’s just called ‘loudly discussing’.”
“Make sure you have similar goals and roughly outline expectations when it comes to roles and duties,” says Kayla. “Also, give each other loads upon loads of grace as you figure everything out. And maybe don’t have babies during a start up—haha!”
Finally, Matt MacCallum says it best:
“Advice for rookies? If you’re concerned about working together, don’t wait five years (like we did) to ask more experienced couples how they do it.” (Truer words, Matt!)
Believe us, we’re going to take all of these insights along for the ride as we continue to run our family business. We couldn’t be more grateful for the honesty and wisdom of our friends and clients.
So, if you’re together-together as well as working together—or just thinking about it—a special Happy Valentines Day to you! It’s not always romantic, it’s not always fun, but it’s a beautiful path, and the benefits are deep and real.