For more than 20 years, Ron Yates and his wife, Mechelle, have run a Modesto, Calif., jewelry shop. Today, a marriage lasting that long is an accomplishment, but when you add in the challenges of running a business together, the steadfast coupling is that much more remarkable.
But ask Yates about it, and he's relatively matter-of-fact. The couple's success lies in five key actions that help them keep both bricks-and-mortar Yates and Company Jewelers and its online counterpart, Titanium-jewelry.com, running like well-oiled machines with little wear-and-tear on their marriage, he says.
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Know your strengths. Ron is quick to admit that Mechelle holds the purse strings while he's the front-man, marketer and creative drive in the business. In the beginning, they butted heads when he wanted to spend on more marketing while she kept a close eye on the bottom line.
"Finally, we just had to say this is what you're good at, this is what I'm good at, and we just have to divvy it up," he says. "She would manage the bricks-and-mortar store, I would manage the e-commerce. And she would handle the books." That compromise has reduced arguments because each respects the other's area of responsibility.
Present a united front. Regardless of whether you agree with each other, you need to be a steadfast team to the outside world, including customers, clients, and employees. Yates advises against arguing with each other or even disagreeing publicly. Instead, discuss concerns behind closed doors and come to a resolution there. When you present yourself as a unified team, the business looks stronger, he says.
Treat each other with respect. Sometimes, Yates says it's too easy for spouses to be comfortable and fail to treat each other with respect and professionalism. When you're at work, treat your spouse as you would a professional colleague. If something you want to say is too disrespectful to say to someone with whom you work, it's too disrespectful to say to your spouse.
Leave work issues at work. There are some days when all of your plans for peace and prosperity in your home and work life are not going to go as planned. He admits it's difficult, but do your best to leave conflict and anger at the office. Don't talk about work when you get home - focus on your family. You can pick up where you left off the next day, but spending the entire evening continuing a disagreement is just going to leave both of you more angry and exhausted, he says.
Find a way to get away. The Yates like to travel and enjoy riding horses, and do so as often as they can. Cultivating mutual interests outside of work will give you a deeper connection and other areas of discussion for when you're outside of work, he says.
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