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Married to Your Business … Partner: Page 2 of 3

Three entrepreneurial couples offer some lessons in navigating the ups and downs of building a successful company together. By Carolyn Heinze
Reader ROI: 
MARRIED CHANNEL PRO TEAMS face challenges—and reap benefits—that are unique from other business partnerships.
DEFINING CLEAR ROLES and responsibilities and maintaining a united front in the office are keys to success.
STRIKING A WORK/LIFE BALANCE and being on the same page financially are also critical.

Eric Shorr concedes that during this period he was in reactive mode, which eased when they hired more employees. He was then able to delegate a lot of the day-to-day tech-related duties to his technicians and block time on his calendar to work with Lisa. “Before, I thought I needed to be reactive because my clients needed me,” he says. “Now I’m more focused on growing the business and working very closely with Lisa to further our marketing and sales efforts.”

Lisa and Eric Shorr

While there may be tension from time to time, couples need to present a united front professionally and resolve disagreements in private, Eric Shorr stresses. “Never have disagreements in front of the team or customers,” he cautions. Otherwise, you risk creating a toxic workplace.

Deana Pizzo agrees. “Always be professional in front of your staff. If you need to butt heads, go to lunch, get it out of the office.”

Work-Life Balance

Bringing that discussion home can create work/life balance issues, however. Deana Pizzo says she established two strict rules from the get-go: She and Jason were not to talk about business at the dinner table, or in bed––rules that aren’t always easy to follow, her husband admits. “We still come home and talk about business, and it’s hard to make that separation because the business is very entwined with our life,” he says.

At the same time, talking about the business at home has awoken entrepreneurial aspirations in their two children, Gavin and Skylar. (Gavin is currently working on Jason’s team and will soon move over to his mother’s side of the business to learn about operations.) “I wanted Gavin and Skylar to see what this was like,” Jason Pizzo says. “We didn’t hold that back from them, so they understood that it’s a hard road when you go down that path of starting your own company.”

The Fine Print

To make that path less rocky, it’s crucial to be on the same wavelength on all things financial, Jason Pizzo underlines. “Regardless of whether or not you run a company together, finances are the biggest reason for divorce,” he says. “If you don’t have that together, running a company together is not going to work.”

Carl Mazzanti, president of eMazzanti Technologies, an MSP headquartered in Hoboken, N.J., believes that entrepreneurial couples need to create an exit plan for each partner. “If the firm turns into a lifestyle business or it’s no longer hyper-growth, it’s OK for the other person to pursue a different passion or experience,” says Mazzanti, who started the company with his wife and CEO, Jennifer Mazzanti, 20 years ago.

The best time to work this out is at the beginning of the business relationship, he advises. “Just because you’re staying together ’til death do you part doesn’t mean that you have to show up at the same office every day.”

About the Author

CAROLYN HEINZE is a regular freelance contributor to ChannelPro-SMB.

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