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Balancing Act: My Husband Is My Business Partner

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Sometimes when you're not ready to move, God will push things out of your way. I definitely feel that happened to me.   I married my college sweetheart in 2003 and was ready to play the role of dutiful wife. A few years before, he'd started his own business, Squeak-E-Clean Commercial Cleaning Services, Inc., so I knew the company would be a large part of our lives, but I didn't expect it to turn into a family business. That all changed once I got pregnant with our first child. As my belly began to blossom, the mere thought of leaving home daily to pursue a 9-5 left me feeling antsier than a petty thief in Bloomingdale's. I knew that I wanted to be the first smile that greeted my son in the mornings and the hand that held his as he got off the bus in the afternoons. I also realized something else: my husband needed me. Over the past five years I'd been doing invoicing, service calls and light office management work for his business. It made good money. It had loyal employees. It was also in a rut. I knew my husband needed a partner to help him take Squeak, Inc. to the next level by focusing on securing more contracts, boosting advertisements and reworking the business plan to include our vision of its potential growth. I was the woman for the job. I felt like maternity leave was the perfect time to invest in us; I could focus on the business. I'd be with my baby. Most importantly, I'd have the security of a paycheck. During those 12 weeks off, I started revamping the nuts and bolts of the infrastructure of the business by researching trends, our competitive set and website designs. A lot of changes had to be made. For example, we valued our employees, but they were tremendously overpaid--we had to find a way to modify salaries to a fair and competitive wage that didn't kill our profit. We also had to bring in new long-term contracts. Oh yeah, and we had to ensure that working together wasn't going to tear our marriage apart. At first, it was a constant juggling act for me because I wore so many hats. I had to learn when to drop the supportive wife role and recast myself as the strong-willed business partner. We had to draw firm boundaries with hours of operation so pillow talk would be about bottoms and not bottom lines. We also created job descriptions so no one would be tossed duties as the other saw fit. In the midst of all the changes, we vowed to keep two things close our hearts: we were a team and success--both marital and financial--was our goal. It was no easy feat to fully merge love, kids and finances. We had to learn not to sacrifice the business for our personal life, or our marriage for the kids. For me that meant making time for date nights, which is our opportunity to reconnect. At least 2-4 times per month we call on a sitter (my mom or close family friend) to watch the kiddies so the adults can play. Our formula isn't flawless but it's been effective. I'm confident that I'm giving my all to motherhood, "wifedom," and being a business owner. When it comes to Squeak Inc., I'm happy to say that we've built something that I'm proud of. We have six full-time and four part-time employees who work in 30 buildings. Last year, our business grew by 120 percent. Today I'm ecstatic to tell you that I never got a chance to return to my job after my maternity leave. The position was eliminated while I was out. God tremendously rewarded my small leap of faith. As President and Operations Manager of Squeak Inc., I reap 100 percent of whatever I put into my company and I can give my all on the fronts that matters most: family and business. For me that's the best deal ever. Related stories:
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