Deborah and Chris Chester, inventors of RimPro-Tec, the protective covering for car wheels and owners of Flostone, the industrial flooring business talk to Gill South about being a couple in business.
Chris and I have known each other from the age of four, going to kindergarten together and secondary school, even living on the same road as we hit our teens. He was a bully at school(they say that the first sign of love) chasing me around the playground but boy have the tables turned and it's my turn( hah ha). Joking apart we always treat each other with respect.
When we were in our teens and early twenties we both had jobs. Chris travelled a lot and I was manager at a local award winning garden centre. When Chris and I started to buy properties together, that was our first business connection. We would both go off to work in the morning and sort the rentals business out when we got home. Chris and I have worked together for 18 years.
Because we have lived together and been married for so long you get to know what makes each other tick. You find the strength that best suits each other and that works within your business structure.
You become one in your marriage and also your business. It's all about team work especially when you have children. I could be working late one night, Chris could be working late another.
We have both acted on our dreams. I had a dream that saved our life, Chris had a dream that changed our life. If it were not for me and Chris working together and being married, we would have not invented Rimpro-tec as this was brought on by both of our dreams.
We believe being married to each other and running our businesses is one of the strongest leadership tools we have.
Having lived together for so long we know them all our strengths and weaknesses. Enjoying time you have together, laughing and having fun is the key.
I'm quiet. A leader, driver and motivator. Chris would call it controlling!
It's all about having a laugh with each other and making sure home life is for your family, and work is work. If you have your disagreement at work, you don't bring it home and that can be hard sometimes.
Chris is fantastic at seeing what we are doing from a different viewpoint. He knows how to calm me down, if needed. If he sees I'm overworking, he knows what to say at the right time to pull me in and say stop. (I'm a bit of a workaholic)
We work on projects together and also separately, but ask each other advice when needed. The important thing to remember is when you have a disagreement, don't get personal, never take it home and make sure as much of the problem is sorted out before you leave the office as possible.
Everyone can make mistakes. Most of our disagreements are when we don't get what the other one is saying. Always remember first it could be you with the problem not your partner. I've learnt to take a big look at myself first, before saying anything. Always listen to what your partner has to say.
We do talk about work at home. It's normally me doing the talking and Chris just shaking his head! A lot of our ideas inventions come to us when we are at home so we will talk about them then. Also I do deal with overseas licensees and customers a lot so do work in my office at home when the children are in bed.
We support each other in everything we do ... but the key is to listen to your team. They have great ideas for your business too.
Develop a plan from the startup of your business. This might change once you find you strength and weaknesses within the business but try and stick to it to start with. Make sure you have clear goals and partnership agreements. Remember you are not always right all the time. Stay level headed if you can. Never take an argument home. Try and keep calm. After all, you will have to work with each other tomorrow and cook dinner for each other tonight.
For those SME owners watching their salaried friends head off for a quick break in the sun over the school holidays, how do you have businesses which allow you to get away for some R & R during the year. Do you have someone who can run the business for you while you are away? Email me, GIll South, at the link below.