Seeking a partner to start and run a business is not something new. In fact, having a partner in business is becoming a popular option for entrepreneurs to leverage complementary skill sets, knowledge and experience. Also, problems faced in running a business can be shared with your business partners, taking away unnecessary stress that may slow down the growth of your business.
Business partners can come from all walks of life. He or she can be a long time friend, a college mate, a sibling of yours, someone whom you met at an event or even your spouse or girlfriend. Quincy Yu, co-founder of SeaYu Enterprises, has been running the business with her husband, Dennis Seaman, for more than 10 years. Together, they have managed to build a green pet brand from ground up to distribution in pet stores nationwide, including Petco.
What is the secret behind the husband-wife business partnership? How to run a business successfully as a couple? We are proud to have Quincy on Sprouter Insights this week to answer our questions on how to successfully build a business together with your spouse.
Introduction to Quincy Yu, SeaYu Enterprises and Clean+Green
Wayne: Quincy, we know you are the one of the founders of SeaYu Enterprises and Clean+Green pet products. Can you briefly introduce the company and what Clean+Green pet products is all about?
Quincy: SeaYu Enterprises is a consumer products company focused on the green eco-friendly cleaning products market. Clean+Green® is the company’s brand of natural pet stain and odor removers that work; have natural and safe ingredients that are biodegradable, non-toxic, non-carcinogenic and non-corrosive; are easy to use and permanently eliminate the odor and/or stain; and contained in eco-friendly and sustainable packaging. Our products are made in the US.
Wayne: We are here today to learn more about how to run a business successfully with your significant other, whether it is your spouse, fiance, girlfriend or boyfriend. Quincy, before we get started, do mind to bring us back in time and tell us how did the decision of starting SeaYu Enterprises with your husband, Dennis Seaman come about?
Quincy: We rescued a 100 lb dog from a local shelter, which presented me with the biggest cleaning challenge that I had ever faced; even worse than 5 children. After trying the “pet cleaners” on the market, I was frustrated because they were messy to use, and even after all the effort, did not work. In addition, I discovered that dogs (pets in general) were more sensitive (even more than children) to chemicals due to their respiratory systems. This started the company.
Benefits of Running a Business as a Couple
Wayne: Entrepreneurs often shy away from the idea of running a business with their significant other because of widely publicized downsides and one of them will be business conflicts that may affect the personal relationship. Can you share with us a few benefits of running a business as a couple?
Quincy: First, I am aware of what are the pros and cons of running a family business; my parents started and ran their own business, and all of us (children) worked in the business. Here are the benefits of running a business with your spouse:
- You know the strengths and weaknesses of your partner.
- You know that your partner is committed.
- You can trust your partner and know that there are no hidden agendas.
- You know that the success of the business will be a success for the family.
Best Organizational Structure for Couples in Business
Wayne: A lot of entrepreneurs and investors are highlighting that in a business where there is a partnership or co-founders leading the management team, one of the partners or co-founders should have a slightly larger ownership of the business so that he or she can have the final say and the company can avoid lingering around a problem for too long. Is this the case with SeaYu Enterprises? Why?
Quincy: No. If having a larger ownership position is the way problems or issues get resolved, then this is a board issue not an operational issue. If the operational roles are not established properly, this is where the real problem exists. There should not be co-presidents (or any co-operating roles) as this just sets up a situation where conflict resolution is a problem.
Quincy: Regardless of whether someone is a co-founder or not, an organization should have clear roles and responsibilities – president, vice presidents, directors, etc. Co-founder is not an operational title. When there is a dispute that peers cannot resolve, then it gets elevated to the next level of responsibility all the way up to the president or CEO – he or she has the final operational say.
Quincy: If the president or CEO is overridden, it is a board issue; and generally there are other directors outside of the founders who can and will break the tie. If the only owners are the co-founders, then there is a problem and one co-founder should have more ownership than the other or a written agreement on how split decision are resolved.
Couples in Business: Defining Roles and Responsibilities
Wayne: From your bio, I noticed that you come from a background that is very different from Dennis’. Although this is the case, I’m sure both of you have some overlapping expertise, skill sets or experience. How is this dealt with and how business functions are divided among yourselves?
Quincy: We each have distinctly different backgrounds, which are complementary rather than overlapping, and I think this helps our situation. Dennis’ background is in sales and marketing, as well as general management; the majority of his career has been in a large corporate environment in consumer products. My background is in operations and finance, as well as general management; although I also have corporate experience, the majority of my career has been in start-ups in the high tech and/or services area. Our overlapping expertise and skills are in management, strategy and building operational organizations to support growth.
Quincy: Due to our background, our roles and responsibilities in SeaYu were easy to define. Dennis is in charge of sales and marketing for the company. I am in charge of operations, finance, production and supply chain management for the company. I am also President of the company. By setting up the operational roles properly, we have clear lines of authority and responsibility.
Wayne: Do you think having the same passion and goals, both personal and professional, is important in running a business as a couple?
Quincy: Yes, but I think this is important for company co-founders regardless of whether one is or is not a spouse. The exception is if there is not an equal partnership in running the business; in this case common goals are important, but not a common passion.
Managing Stress for Couples in Business
Wayne: Stress coming from running a business as a couple is a double-sided sword. It can either improve the relationship when the couple understands each other more after going through tough business stages or worsen it due to disappointment with the other party. How do you manage stress coming from a business that is run together with your husband?
Quincy: Frankly, it is easier to manage stress from the business because he is in the business. First, I trust my husband as a person and as a sales and marketing professional who has proven brand, consumer products and wholesale market experience. This actual eases my stress from the company. Second, my husband is open and considers my viewpoint on matters pertaining to his area of responsibility, as am I for mine. We may not always agree, but we do respect each other’s position and decisions. Lastly, it is easier to discuss those issues that bring on stress without having to explain all the nuances as one would have to do so to a third party sounding board.
Wayne: Is it distracting running a business as a couple? I mean, personal matters come in all the time during our most productive moments and I assume that this will happen more often when we are working so closely with our significant other. How do you deal with this?
Quincy: No, it is not because our priorities are the same. Family comes first – even before the business. What helps is that both of us have held executive positions where our work lives have not been relegated to “normal” hours and we each have had to juggle work and personal priorities. It is not different for our own business; the only difference is that we account to ourselves not a third party.
Wayne: On the other hand, do you set up boundaries to create work life balance? For example, there shall be no discussions about the business during leisure activities and personal time.
Quincy: Our lives are really not balanced, but neither of us really ever has had a work life balance. Our lives are about juggling priorities and making sure that we don’t short shrift our families, our business and ourselves.
Spouse – Your Employee or Business Partner?
Wayne: When we talk about running a business as a couple, it can either be a case that is similar to yours, which is the couple running the business as co-founders or in other cases, one of them may be helping the other running the business as an employee overseeing specific business functions. How is the latter different from your case and how different should their approach be in order for the arrangement to work well?
Quincy: Being an employee versus a business partner is about responsibility, decision-making, mindset and voice. I think the employee versus partner situation is actually more difficult to handle with a spouse unless the roles in the business are similar to those in the marriage.
Wayne: Thank you for sharing, Quincy. How can my readers learn more about SeaYu Enterprises and its products? And if they have questions about running a business as a couple, is it possible for them to reach out to you? What will be the best way?
Quincy: You are welcome; it is my pleasure. Your readers can learn more about SeaYu by going to our website, www.odorandstainremover.com. Best way for your readers to reach me with questions is via Twitter at @cleanandgreen or Facebook.
Do You Run Your Business with Your Spouse, Girlfriend or Boyfriend? Share Your Tips Here!
Quincy Yu has shared loads of tips with us. If you are planning to run or running your business with your spouse, fiance, girlfriend or boyfriend, tips that Quincy provided in the interview above are able to provide some ideas on how you can start running the business with your significant other effectively.
Do you have your own tips to share when it comes to running a business as a couple? What are some of the things that you do that help to maintain a successful personal, work and business relationship with your partner, who is also your significant other? Share your tips with us and help other entrepreneurs out in the comments section below.
Photo Credit: mikebaird