For more than 20 years, Brad and Sarah Casebier have owned and operated Radiant Plumbing and Air Conditioning as a team. There may be few out there that are unaware that they’re also a real-life married couple. Going into business with a spouse can pose a unique set of challenges. But learning how to overcome them and grow together can unlock even greater rewards. So much so, that Brad decided to write an entire book on the subject entitled “The Survival Guide to Working with Your Spouse.” The most common question they’ve been asked over the years is how they maintain a healthy work-life balance. Brad’s answer is priceless: “We don’t.” He goes on to explain, “If you enjoy what you’re doing, go all in!” We sat down with Brad and asked him about the most important questions that need to be addressed in order to achieve success in business with your spouse.
Align Your Visions
Let’s say you and your significant other have what seems to be a shared vision to open a smoothie shop. You’ve decided on the fun stuff: your name, logo, and the music you’ll be playing as customers gulp fresh pressed goodness. But as you develop your concept and start to implement your ideas, you encounter endless friction when it comes to decisions that should be easy to agree on. And the reason is simple: you and your partner have different end results in mind. One might have envisioned a nationwide franchise with endless room to scale, while the other had a boutique store with personal touches in mind. When it comes to the big picture, you and your partner can easily start rowing in different directions. Brad and Sarah have encountered this issue many times over the years and they have learned that it is crucial to communicate your vision clearly and get on the same page from the onset. Brad put it this way: “Take the time to really understand what each other’s end results look like. Then you’ll find, your communication gets a lot better.”
Define Roles Clearly
After deciding on a joint vision, the next step in your business is to answer this simple yet important question: who’s going to do what? Brad and Sarah are currently filling the roles of CEO and CFO respectively, but it wasn’t always this way. Throughout the years, the two have traded roles numerous times, from Brad taking ownership of sales to Sarah acting as CEO and being heavily involved in marketing. According to Brad, foundational territories like marketing, sales, finance and operations require one person to be in charge. Failing to do so can be a great source of friction and even threaten the existence of your company. It all comes down to accepting full responsibility for a department and taking ownership of results. It takes guts to stand up and unequivocally claim a department, but it can be even more difficult to allow your partner the freedom to do the same. Allow your partner to make “their” department their own and give them the space to fail, learn, and ultimately succeed.
A common misconception is that you should always accept the role you naturally gravitate towards. You will be required to wear many different hats, especially in the early days, and you need to be able to make decisions objectively. Someone’s passion for a particular element of the business could even be their downfall. In Brad and Sarah’s experience, it can be very difficult to give up control of a role when it has become connected to your identity. It’s important to be able to emotionally distance yourself from your “dream position” and move towards roles that best suit your abilities and serve the needs of the company.
Trust Each Other
If you want any chance of achieving success in your business, or more importantly your marriage, you will need to learn how to trust. Failure is a part of life and you and your partner will need a great deal of strength and patience to allow each other to make mistakes. Brad summed it up in this simple, but powerful statement: “Trust is given, not earned.” In order to build a trusting relationship both personally and professionally with your spouse, you must be willing to give it rather than embarking on the “earning it” journey to prove worthiness to one another. Think about it. By giving trust, you’re showing you’re willing to trust. When you extend that olive branch, the openness to trust is reciprocated. A strong sense of trust in your business will result in a healthier personal relationship. Don’t get sucked into a power struggle. As the previous point explained, focus on your own department and own your results. Your spouse will do the same.
Get A Coach
Brad and Sarah are strong advocates for getting an objective third party involved to help you navigate difficult issues and grow as a team. According to Brad, the reason behind getting a coach is as simple as this: “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Over the years, the couple have enlisted the services of more than ten business coaches and they highly recommend consulting with one as often as you can. And they don’t even have to be industry-specific. Brad and Sarah have worked with coaches that specialize in various fields. A good coach will be able to help you in all aspects of your business and even your personal relationship. Their goal is to improve your communication and offer practical business solutions. At Radiant, a fresh pair of eyes is always welcome.
Grace is one of the few things that a coach can’t teach you. Brad firmly believes that the best way to instill a sense of grace in your partnership is to be as interested in your partner’s personal journey as the success of the business. Watching your partner fail, recover, and succeed can be one of the most valuable learning experiences. Grace is required from both parties in order for the process to be successful and a great example of this comes from Brad and Sarah themselves. Sarah loves collaborative problem solving. Bouncing ideas off each other and exchanging different viewpoints freely comes naturally to her. Brad is the opposite. He prefers to go off on his own, take his time to consider the issues, and get perspective. You will need grace in order to find common ground and let the process take its course. Allow your partner to have their own experiences and your union will be better for it.