Justine Ross, co-founder of 42 Below with Geoff Ross, chairman of Ecoya, CEO of Moa Beer talk to Gill South about being a couple in business together.
I think it's pretty dangerous to mine other peoples' relationships for pointers on your own. However, I hope these insights are in some way helpful. Since publishing "Every Bastard Says No" it's become clear to me how thankful readers are for honesty.
I recently listened to a female presenter on a magazine breakfast show make the confident assertion that she and her husband have never fought. I felt so sorry for her viewers. The truth is all healthy relationships are hard work. Having business interests you are both passionate about adds another layer of complexity.
Geoff and I celebrated our twentieth wedding anniversary this year. We have been together since we were in our late teens. We went to university together in Christchurch. As individuals from a very young age we were gunning for a big life. We recognised this hunger in each other. There is no one in whose company I would rather be, I miss him terribly when we are apart, I covet his counsel, I yearn for his hand in mine. It's a big beautiful love, I cannot imagine better.
But we certainly challenge each other, we ask the hard questions at home which is not always ideal. Our greatest challenge is compartmentalising - we don't do it. Passing an Ecoya candle burning at home, I'll say: 'That one's too weak," and a debate takes place in our hall when one was on route to feed whining pets.
A flick of Trilogy while we are face washing and a lengthy discussion on Asia versus USA erodes sleep.
We spend date night on a Moa pub crawls - life becomes pretty business orientated when you both share a monstrous passion for the growth of your brands and for the teams involved in making that happen. Even the children are dragged in. Our version of shopping in London recently was a family competition. Geoff, myself, and the boys raced to find the Ecoya display in Harrods and then it was off to the food hall for a meeting to critique it.
I wouldn't say over the years we have worked together as much as conspired on dreams and then championed the cause picking up each other's slack, egging each other on and using our respective strengths to best advantage.
We defer to each other. There is a reliance on each other's council, which will ultimately affirm a course of action. In many situations my first thought would be, I wonder what Geoff would think and he often says the same.
A piece of advice
My advice would simply be to stay on the same team. In any team you need a clearly articulated goal - ours is growing arse-kicking global brands.
You need lots of communication along the way while trying to keep business out of the bedroom/toilet and respect for each others' strengths (see Myers Briggs profiling). If either of us become tricky it's counterproductive and frankly we've got too much ahead to be getting in each other's way.