Couple franchisees from AIMS Accountants share how they make it work
They say if you want your marriage to last, don’t work with your spouse. But more and more couples are proving this wrong by running a business together and succeeding.
We know that it is not just AIMS franchisees that are finding this option appealing, but we are seeing an increase in the number of AIMS practices that are run by couples who are not just partners in work, but also partners in life. How do they make it work so that both their home life and their practices run effectively?
Here, two sets of AIMS couples, Louise and Will Burridge who run their practice from Chester, and Gary and Alison Robinson who run their practice from Ashford, share their thoughts and tips for making it work:
1. It is important to have some basic rules
This may seem like an obvious place to start, but for Gary and Alison, it is one of the things that make their work-life balance achievable. And for them, it has and continues to work well as the pair worked together even before they joined AIMS 16 years ago.
Louise and Will Burridge might have been a couple for over 20 years now, but are still at a much earlier stage in working together, Will having only joined Louise’s established AIMS business earlier this year. They aren’t sure that they want to work with a strict set of rules: “One of the main reasons for having our own business to give us more flexibility and work-life balance than we did as employees. It would therefore be counter-intuitive to impose rigid rules. We are both very self-motivated and therefore do not anticipate any issues with productivity.”
For many who work and live together one of these rules must be not to work outside working times, as well as avoid personal life matters in working times. This is such important advice we have made it our tip number 2…
2. Always keep work and personal lives separated
It is essential to keep home out of work and work out of home, even more so when the place you work and live is the same building! You need to be able to put on a different hat when you switch between work and family matters, and not bring your work home (or your home life to the office).
For Gary and Alison, this is essential: “It is very important to know how to segregate work and personal lives. It is also very important not to take work matters personally, and accept that if you might have a disagreement, it is a professional opinion - and should be kept in the office and not into your personal relationship.”
It seems that it might be easier said than done, but with discipline and practise, it is certainly possible.
3. Partners at work, partners at home
There are definite advantages to the ease with which you can coordinate things like holidays and time off, as well as other shared responsibilities and childcare. As Alison and Gary confirm: “Get the balance right, if you need childcare, you need to agree who is doing that”. But at the same time, you can find that you are battling for work time. There may be times when one spouse feels their workload necessitates extra work time or their tasks are more time-sensitive or important, and couldn’t you both just adjust your schedules to give them more time? When you both start feeling the crunch at the same time, in those super busy seasons, it can require a lot of cooperation, grace and clarity to ensure both parties get what they need and that you find a work schedule that works for both of you.
Will seconds the notion: “Make sure you carry your weight and don’t take advantage! We share school pick-ups, but don’t need a strict rota. One thing we’ve learned over the years is that I am an early bird, but Louise is more of a night owl. Flexibility is possible with the AIMS business therefore we don’t have to necessarily stick to fixed hours.”
4. Be individual
Having shared goals can be a key factor in establishing a good working relationship for couples. Spending time planning for your future and creating a list of both short- and long-term goals, it can ease challenges that arise along the way while keeping you and your partner on the same page.
Sometimes when couples work too closely, they find it difficult to maintain a sense of identity and individuality. We all still need some time alone, or way in which we can maintain our individuality. Find that time to listen to a podcast, or take a walk alone, whatever works for you!
For both couples how they split up tasks within their practice is an important part of this. Both couples have their own clients that they look after themselves, both attend their own meetings. Gary and Alison also have the additional challenge of having a number of staff to manage (with five others working with them). That’s a job that they share between them.
Louise and Will also plan to maintain their own clients, so from a client’s point of view they have one AIMS accountant. As Louise stresses: “It also means no arguments over who’s right, or who does what!”
One of the best ways to maintain your individuality and get some “space” from each other is to maintain separate working spaces, which is a set up that Will and Louise have adopted. They have a further strategy: “We also take breaks and exercise regularly, get out in the fresh air to take your eyes and mind away from the screen. Share the domestic responsibilities – but try to play to each other’s’ strengths and preferences.”
The most important thing to keep in mind, no matter what’s going on in your business, is that your marriage must come first. Alison summed it up perfectly, that after 20 years of working together she and Gary don’t need to think about so many of these things anymore – they come as second nature: “You can get the balance right in any of common issues. As we have worked together for many years now, we are past that level.”
The beauty of AIMS is that it offers a good fit for everyone, regardless of background or civil status, making it easier for you to succeed in your career, at your own pace, and along with your partner if you so choose.
Image: L-R Gary and Alison Robinson, and, Will and Louise Burridge