Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wed on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Donna Maria Coles Johnson @indiebusiness on Twitter. She is an award winning entrepreneur who has inspired millions through her seminars and her role as the leader of the Indie Beauty Network and Indie Business Revolution events nationwide. She also produces Indie Business Radio show. Donna Maria co-owns Indie Business Media, LLC, with her husband of 10 years Darryl Johnson @djphotographer. They have two children and a passion for empowering other married couples to harness their talents and gifts to own and manage a business of their own. For more information http://www.indiebeauty.com and http://www.indiebusinessblog.com
Smallbizlady: How did you and your husband start in business together?
@indiebusiness: He was laid off. I already had my business. We looked at our talents and gifts and saw an opportunity to merge them into a family business so that’s what we did.
Smallbizlady: How is your business set-up?
@indiebusiness: We are a home based business. I have an office, and he has an office, on different floors. We have 2 kids, ages 5 and 7. We used to have nearly full-time help when the kids were infants and toddlers. Now, we hire help when we need it. Our children are used to us working at home.
Smallbizlady: How do you work at home with young children around?
@indiebusiness: It’s a challenge. We call it “tag teaming.” He takes them so I can work, and vice versa. If we have to be working together, which is a lot of the time, they play in a play room or outside in the yard. This happens a lot when we are taping a show or doing audio recordings. We need quiet and that is hard to come by with two kids around all the time. We also use young teens in the neighborhood to babysit sometimes. It all works well.
Smallbizlady: How do you stay on track? With kids, home, business, etc.?
@indiebusiness: Well, we meet every day (sometimes early in the morning, sometimes later at night after kids are asleep) to list the 5 top priorities each of us has for that day.
Smallbizlady: How do you handle disagreements about the direction of the business?
@indiebusiness: It doesn’t happen often because our responsibilities are pretty clearly drawn. He does what he does best and I do what I do best. But when it does happen, we look at the issue and see who it matters the most to. If it’s a part of the business that is in my bailiwick, then I usually have the final say. If it’s more his area, then he usually has the final say. That’s not always predictable, but because we want to make a profit and stay married, we have to look at who would be most impacted by a particular decision. That usually helps us figure out what to do.
Smallbizlady: How do you handle it when disagreements spillover into your personal relationship?
@indiebusiness: We used to argue about it. Eventually though, we both just started being honest. If I’m upset about something on the business side, I tell him that, and I also tell him that I am not feeling “warm and cozy” tonight because I’m stewing over a business issue. He does the same. We have learned that the time to raise touchy business issue is during the business day. And we pretty much do that. If someone can’t get over it that night, well, we’ve learned to go to separate corners. We always come back together in a few hours anyway. We are patient and forgiving of each other and that’s really the bottom line. We also don’t hold grudges. We believe in each other, know that we have each other’s best interests at heart and give the benefit of the doubt. We try to start each day fresh, like a new beginning for each of us.
Smallbizlady: How to you separate the business from your day to day married life?
@indiebusiness: Well, there really is not a lot of separation. The reality is that the security and long term viability of the business and the marriage are quite intertwined. Conflict in one area affects the other. Success in one area affects the other. It’s a constant ebb and flow of both personal and professional weaving back and forth to form a holistic entity that includes both our family and our business.
Smallbizlady: So, who reports to whom?
@indiebusiness: Well, it depends on the issue. When it comes to what to wear for a video, how to sound, how to stand or hold the props or what music goes best in the video, I report to him. When it comes to what video project to undertake next, he reports to me. Again, it works because he knows what he’s responsible for and I know what I’m responsible for.
Smallbizlady: Have you ever wanted to quit?
@indiebusiness: Yes. Once when we ran out of money and again when we ran out of money. That’s true, but seriously, there are times when we become frustrated with one another. We work together, live together, sleep together, raise kids together – all under one roof. We’ve known each other for nearly 30 years and been married for 10 of those years so we do get on each other’s nerves from time to time. But we both have our separate interests outside of the business and the marriage so when we need to take a break, that’s what we do.
Smallbizlady: What 4 tips can you offer to help other couples get started in business as WAHMs and WAHDs (Work at Home Moms and Dads)?
@indiebusiness: First, make sure that you can be content spending inordinate amounts of time together. If you drive each other totally nuts in separate work spaces, it’s probably not a good idea to work together. Having said that, if you find that your employment opportunities are drying up and you have to work together, I suggest you suck it up and get on with it. You have to eat, and if you have to create a business together to make that happen, then do it.
Next, make sure that the business offers a needed product or service. Don’t jump in without doing some market research first, just like with any other business.
Next, be sure to divide up responsibilities. Each person needs what amounts to a job description so they can be accountable for their responsibilities. Have regular meetings to air out options and disagreements so they don’t impeded your progress.
Know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. As in a marriage, you each bring different things to the party. Just like in your personal relationship, work to minimize each other’s weaknesses so you are a strong and united force together.
Smallbizlady: I know that you and your husband participate in a couple’s mastermind group. How is that helpful?
@indiebusiness: Our couple’s mastermind group is extremely helpful on many levels. Accountability for one thing. For another, the group provides real support. We are all going through the same things – juggling kids, family business, marriage. It helps to know that other similarly situated people are pulling for us. We help and encourage each other.
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9pm ET follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.
For more tips on starting or growing your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog at www.succeedasyourownboss.com
Links to relevant articles:
Making Love and Money: http://www.indiebusinessblog.com/2008/09/01/making-love-and-money/
How to Start a Couple’s MasterMind Group, Part 1: http://www.indiebusinessblog.com/2009/07/30/how-to-start-a-couples-mastermind-group/
How to Start a Couple’s MasterMind Group, Part 2 http://www.indiebusinessblog.com/2009/08/21/video-how-to-start-a-couples-mastermind-group-part-2/