Last week, I wrote about the power of surrounding yourself with entrepreneurial people. I’m lucky to have some seriously talented and successful family members around me, supporting and advising me at every step of my journey. This week, I’d like to focus on one of these people: my wife, Amanda.
We have been together nearly 25 years and she has been a driving force behind the success of both my businesses. Yet people still ask me: “How do you work with your wife?” as though working together would put a strain on our relationship.
The fact is that I could not have been nearly as successful without Amanda by my side. This is because of her flair for business, but also because she has taken so much responsibility for our family life.
At BigChange, I never have a big idea that I won’t bounce off Mandy first. She’s a good listener and often sees a new or unusual way for me to realise my scheme. I make better decisions with her on my team. She’s a voice of reason when I’m losing my head.
According to Amanda, our relationship mirrors that of her parents, who were also entrepreneurs. She says: “My parents were very much ‘yin’ and ‘yang’: my father more fanciful and open to ideas; my mother more practical and commercial. I think we share those traits.
“We both bring something different to the table. When we discuss an idea, I am more sceptical initially. We’ll go back and forth discussing the pros and cons, sometimes quite forcefully, and eventually we’ll find the way forward. You are very driven, always thinking of new ideas, new ways to market. My job is to filter them.”
She’s also a keen cost-cutter, and keeps me in check when I have ideas that are too expensive or risky. She’s a very good judge of character, which helps me when I’m recruiting people or doing deals with prospective partners. She always knows when someone is worth doing business with.
When it comes to our home life, she gives me the ability to work long hours by managing the family. We have four children and she provides the stability for them when I’m travelling around the UK or further afield. That has been crucial in maintaining harmony at home. It has been tough at times.
When I asked Amanda whether our kids have ever felt hard done by, she reminded me of this story: “We were once on holiday in a hired car driving to the beach when our kids started screaming at us. I turned to ask what the problem was… “If you talk about work once more, we’re going home” said our daughter. “We’re sick to death of it.” We hadn’t even realised that we’d been discussing work for the entire journey! I must admit it’s hard for us to switch off. We have to make a conscious decision not to talk about work sometimes.”
It’s amazing watching Amanda juggling family and work; she does the same hours as everyone else but she’s often making calls in the evenings or early mornings instead of during traditional business hours.
I find her attitude inspiring. When I ask her where her worth ethic comes from, she told me: “I think the most important business lesson I learnt from my parents was that ‘Nothing comes from nothing’. It’s a quote from King Lear, and means to be successful in life you need to work hard. There are no short cuts. My parents acknowledged and admired hard-working people who had become successful in their own right. My mum would say as long as you are willing to work you will never starve.”
When people ask me whether they should go into business with their spouse, I always say, ‘Go for it’. It was the best decision I ever made. Amanda (thank goodness) agrees: “I think the secret to a successful husband and wife team is respect. I think we both know that we are very different but we recognise and respect each other’s strengths and opinion’s. Ultimately, our family is everything to us and we would never jeopardise that.”