See how three different couples navigate the highs and lows of entrepreneurship.
When you get three entrepreneurial couples into a room and ask them to share their stories, you’ll hear a few common themes, with some unique twists and turns. This was the case recently, when Brian J. Adamek, CFP®, CPWA®, CVA, CExP™, founder of E-Wealth Partners, led a panel discussion as part of Twin Cities Startup Week. Here’s a glimpse into their conversation.
How do you navigate the highs and lows of entrepreneurship, as a couple?
Pete and Tracy
For Pete Kootsikas, who owns several entertainment businesses in Nashville, Tennessee, and his wife, Tracy, a former IT executive, the key is knowing each other’s strengths—and differences. For example, while Tracy’s favorite way to make a decision is with a good spreadsheet, Pete is rarely hung up on the details.
“When you work in IT,” explains Tracy, “you have contingency plans, you have redundancies, you plan every possible scenario out.” Her instinct is to apply this thinking to entrepreneurship.
But Pete, on the other hand, is happy to feel his way through most challenges. When the pandemic shut down his Nashville Pedal Tavern for a year, he and his partners simply opened two more businesses.
With such different styles, the couple has found an approach that works for them. Instead of processing every bump in the road with Tracy, Pete first makes sure he’s prepared to address her concerns.
“I try to make sure there’s an explanation behind what’s going on,” he says. “Details.” And he adds, with a laugh: “Because she’ll ask me 75 questions in like three minutes.”. The arrangement helps them each feel more comfortable as the business grows.
I mean, there can be stress and conflict. But it's never something you can’t figure out.
Nashville Pedal Tavern
Gwen and Michael
Spouses Gwen and Michael Martin are both lifelong entrepreneurs, each with successful businesses under their belts. Gwen currently co-owns and operates Scouts Talent, an Accounting and Finance talent agency, and Amma Parenting, a provider of childbirth and parenting education. Michael has been a longtime leader in environmental sustainability business initiatives via his company Effect Partners. His current venture is r.Cup, a reusable cup service that’s been named by Fast Company as a 2020 World Most Innovative Company, and 2021 World-Changing Idea.
During their 18+ years together, the couple has encountered both highs and lows—everything from rockstars promoting their work to a health crisis that stopped everything.
“I think it’s brought us closer together,” says Gwen. “I can’t imagine having a corporate job, which seems so safe to people who aren’t entrepreneurs. But it actually feels much safer on this path. I would 10 times rather be building our own companies and have our hands on the steering wheel.”
So how does the couple make decisions about each other’s new ideas? Michael describes their collaboration like this: “I think of the image of us putting something on the table. And we spend several days sort of looking at it from all different sides, turning it around, and talking about it, and, ultimately, we come to generally the right decision that I think we both feel good about.”
It’s great to have a sounding board who gets it.
Mike and Sarah
Mike McNamara took over his family’s commercial landscaping firm in his early 20s and he’s been working hard to grow it with his team for the past two decades. His wife, Sarah, who left her corporate job to focus on raising their family, supports the business from the sidelines—with the rhythm of Minnesota’s seasons shaping their life.
“Basically, in our house, it starts in about March,” says Mike. “We’ve just got our heads down, and we’re trying to make as much revenue as we can. And then we get to right around the holidays, and Sarah and I can kind of regroup and see where we’re at.”
“He’s going strong at work and my world is the kids,” says Sarah. “And we use that as a way to balance each other out.”
When conflicts arise in the business, particularly interpersonal issues, Mike relies on Sarah’s insights. “There’s been many times where I’ve been walked off a cliff or given a different perspective by her,” he says.
We've been able to develop a system for working through issues of all sorts—whether they’re business issues or personal issues.
Hoffman and McNamara Nursery and Landscape