Small Business

Love and Marriage and ... Running a Business?

Randy and Craig Rubin, Guest Columnists
Randy Rubin and Craig Rubin
Source: Crypton

Many men and women across the nation claim that their spouse is their best friend. In our case, as husband and wife, we’re not only best friends, but co-founders of a textile business. And we’re not the only ones — according to the National Federation of Independent Business, 1.2 million small businesses nationwide are owned by husband-and-wife teams.

In 1993, the two of us met, fell in love and were married, and started a textile business, all within three months. Inspired by the disposable diaper industry, we created Crypton, a textile company that treats fabric to make stain-, liquid- and odor causing bacteria-resistant fabrics, out of the basement of our home. Nineteen years later, our company has 120 employees, our textiles are featured in restaurants, hospitals and hotels across the world, and we even launched a residential division, called CryptonHome, which makes pet products, furniture and accessories.

It can be scary to take the plunge and start your own business, and it can be even scarier to have your spouse be your business partner. The last thing you want is for your work to become your life, and your life to become your work, and with your spouse as your business partner, there is that fear that you’ll never be able to completely disconnect from the office. You fear that you’ll become boring people — to others and ultimately to yourselves. Our kids are the first to tell us not to talk about business and they are totally right.

But perhaps the best thing about having your partner by your side during the day is that, when you get home at night, and share how you landed a new account, your spouse doesn’t respond with “oh that’s nice.” Instead, this person knows all the hard work that went into your accomplishments and is excited to celebrate in the success. On the contrary, if you don’t want to talk about your day, your business partner/spouse entirely gets it. We could honestly say that the people who have seen our business grow are absolutely amazed—they really don’t “get it.” All the work, sleepless nights, celebrations are invisible but not to us. If you and your spouse are thinking of becoming a husband-and-wife owned team, here are some tips to keep the passion for your business – and in your relationship – going strong.

HE SAYS:Split your roles. Make sure you and your wife have specific duties. For example, Randy focuses more on the legal, marketing and retail sales, while I am more focused on research and development, running the plant and accounting. By splitting up responsibilities, we’re able to take ownership for certain areas of the business in areas we’re interested in and make our own decisions.

SHE SAYS: Share an office. I completely agree with Craig, having our own specific duties is key to making our business work. But, while we are responsible for different departments of the business, we share an office. No one else besides Craig could ever understand how hard it has been to make our small business successful. By sharing our working space, it allows us both to know what’s going on with the other sides of the business, bounce ideas off each other, and provide advice when dealing with a more challenging situation. We know the same people and their personalities—many times we can just make a simple suggestion and a conversation can totally flip

HE SAYS: Take ownership when things don’t go as planned. One of my least favorite parts about working with my spouse is that if something goes wrong at work, I can’t dodge it at home. The issue can linger over us for a while and cause friction that bleeds into our marriage. If you work with your spouse, my advice is to take ownership immediately and admit when something is your fault – as an individual, not as business owners. By owning up to your mistakes, it makes your life, both professionally and personally, run much smoother.

SHE SAYS: Have other friends and interests. Make sure that you have other friends and interests with youo spouse outside of work so your company doesn’t become your entire life. For example, I make it a point to exercise daily and have time for myself. I also started a monthly club with four other couples; each month we tackle one item on our bucket list – like visiting Niagara Falls or trying a new restaurant. With other active people around, it allows us to take the focus off work and instead, let’s us focus on being the fun, crazy individuals that we are.

HE SAYS:Ask her to marry you as often as you can. It’s easy to start to see your wife as your business partner, but even easier to start to see her only as your business partner. Try to keep the romance alive, whether it’s turning a business trip into a romantic long-weekend trip, renewing your vows, or just a simple “I love you.”

SHE SAYS: Use your husband and wife status to your advantage. Be proud of the fact you are partners – both in love and in business. Many of our prospective clients found it charming that we were married at their initial meeting. Sharing something so personal made it easier to make follow up calls, as these prospects definitely remembered us .

Randy and Craig Rubin founded Crypton, based in West Bloomfield, Mich., in 1993.