Working solo with your sweetie

March 14th, 2010

For some reason, Girl Scout cookie season has always screamed ”Love is in the air!” to me — way the heck more than Valentine’s Day ever could. (Yes, I have a bit of a Thin Mints issue. What’s it to you?)

In honor of this lovey-dovey-est of seasons, I recently went on something of a writing-about-couples-who-work-together tear  (here, and here). I hadn’t given much thought to whether and when domestic partners in business together should reveal their coupledom to clients — that is, until one of these articles led me to interview spouses Kris Hoots and Steve Thomas, founders of Oneicity, a Seattle-area consulting firm that creates fundraising solutions for non-profit and religious organizations. 

Kris and Steve initially opted to keep their relationship status on the down low until clients and colleagues got to know them better. But once they realized that many of the clients and vendors they worked with were also shacked up, they decided they could afford to be less tight-lipped about their personal partnership. While the couple doesn’t exactly come right out and flaunt their marital status in their company’s marketing materials, they have blogged about it on their business site.

How about you? What’s your take on mixing love with business — and letting your customers in on the nature of the personal relationship you and your partner share? If you and your sweetie are in business together, do you play up your relationship status in your marketing materials and new client meetings? Or do you go out of your way to cloak your personal relationship from customers, vendors, and colleagues? Has your relationship status helped or hurt your business image, or has it not made one bit of difference?

Entry Filed under: Popular articles,She's the boss,This freelance life

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Steve Thomas  |  March 14th, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    Hi Michelle! Thank you for your kind words and great questions. For the record, we’re becoming more bold about our “shacked up” status! Our new website will actual have a photo of us TOGETHER!
    We were recently on a call with a company president and the head of their marketing department. They had sniffed out our “partners in all things” status from our website and commented on how great they thought it was. Hoots got the idea that maybe they had a relationship similar to ours…turns out they were married.
    It’s everywhere.
    Maybe more in small business where one can set the rules and performance is more important than in larger companies.
    We know it wouldn’t work for everyone. But for us, it is the only way to go. What joy to work with the one you love.
    And I’m so with you on the Thin Mints…oh man.
    Thanks again.

  • 2. Stephanie Collman  |  March 14th, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    I believe that Steve is glancing in our direction when he speaks about the CEO and Director of Marketing being “partners in all things”…yes, I have to admit, they cracked the code during our conversation. We, too, are a husband and wife team as are our partners the President and the CFO. But to answer the question: We don’t typically introduce ourselves as husbands and wives in our initial conversation with new clents. We first want to get an idea of who they are and how they might view a couple of couples. That may have been due to our prior work environments.

    My husband and I both spent over 15 years in the stock market and financial industry. Although we never worked in the same department and mostly not even the same company it was commonly frowned upon to mention the significant other during the workday. Heck, spouses weren’t even invited to my company’s “holiday” celebration. Oh how that has changed.

    Now my husband and I sit 10 feet from each other in our office while helping nonprofits and faith-based organizations uncover the mystery of payment processing and online donations. It is a little easier to open up to our customer base as they often seem delighted to be working with a married couple who obviously love each other and love working for a good cause.

    Though I never envisioned working with my husband I am thankful that we are able to do so. We are also lucky to meet other fabulous couples (I am looking at you Kris and Steve) who share the same love for what they do and as they share each other. Cheers to all the husband and wife teams. May you always be smiling.


  • 3. Brett Slater  |  March 16th, 2010 at 7:34 am

    Great subject for a post, Michelle… I met my wife when we both worked in radio, and she’s now a partner in my business… One of the things that draws people to each other is their shared values, not just in things romantic or “couple-y,” but in other aspects of life as well…

    Our mutual respect while doing business led to us getting together personally, and as we got along personally, we learned just how much better that allowed us to continue working together…

    With new clients, we’re pretty up-front about our relationship, because better they should know ahead of time, than to find out later and think we were keeping something from them, even if it’s something personal. But one of the reasons we work very well together is that we do our best to not let personal stuff preclude doing business. So our philosophy has always been “full disclosure at the onset, then let that be the last you hear of it.”

  • 4. Lani Voivod  |  March 17th, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    On any given day, my hubby/biz partner and I are “all up in each other’s grills,” as the young folks say. (Or not. I don’t watch MTV anymore and only pretend to have a sense of what the young’uns are saying.)

    We have finance meetings while changing diapers, write and review proposals in tandem while taking turns trading out Bob the Builder videos with Thomas the Tank Engine DVDs, and constantly bring clients and strategy-brainstorming to bed with us. (Figuratively, not literally.)

    It’s a bizarre little biodome, our biz/life meshing. Still, I find myself constantly wondering how “normal” couples stay connected when so much of their lives exist in different industries, careers, offices, and directions. That’s the big question. I mean, Allen and I NEVER get a chance to catch up on all the things we’d like to hash out, and we’re sharing living space and mental space at least 90% of our lives! How the heck to the majority of couples function???

    In the current environment of social networking, casual engagement, and “strategic radical visibility,” it’s increasingly difficult to hide behind smoke screens of any kind. Our personal and professional practice is to be as open, honest, and authentic about our situation as possible. Those who don’t like it probably aren’t a good fit anyway, and those who get it appreciate the robust, dynamic, complementary package we offer. :)

    Thanks for probing into this fascinating realm…

    Lani Voivod
    co-owner of Epiphanies, Inc.

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Who I am

Hi, my name's Michelle Goodman and I've been freelancing since 1992. I'm author of My So-Called Freelance Life and The Anti 9-to-5 Guide. Read my full bio here.

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