Truth be told, the decision to partner with Eric on Hands & Feet just happened. There was no discussion about it. Perhaps because I didn’t see myself going down this path without him. Eric brings so much to the table: a strong business background, connections, but most importantly the ability to not only dream, but to dream BIG!
We have been married for an amazing 22 years. Building our marriage took a lot of trial and error, patience and GRACE. Interestingly enough, partnering with Eric has required more patience and grace than our marriage. Why you ask? Because he knows me better than anyone else and pushes me to be more than I think is possible (read: out of my cozy, predictable, comfort zone). At times I appreciate this, but often times I find it annoying (insert eye roll emoji) and frustrating. This is where patience and grace come in. I am finding that in order for this partnership to work we need to create the same judge-free, safe environment that we have created in our marriage. It’s a work in progress...and that’s OK.
One of the first things we did after forming Hands & Feet was to create a list of our strengths and weaknesses. Although there weren’t any surprises it was still a helpful exercise. Not only did this make assigning tasks easier it also identified areas for potential growth.
Communication is the key to any relationship. Eric and I know how to effectively communicate in our marriage. Don’t get me wrong, there are times (in the distant past...or last week) that we haven’t properly expressed our feelings for each other (one of us likes to pout and the other enjoys a good eye roll from time to time - can you guess who?).
Since launching Hands & Feet, one of the single most important decisions we made was to discuss how we like to communicate. Do we communicate via text, email, phone call, during office time or while laying in bed 2 minutes before we go to sleep? In case you’re wondering, this last approach was not a popular one (sorry Eric). Anywho, it’s an important one.His
“Do you actually say these things to the people you work with?”. Somewhere in the very early stages of launching Hands & Feet, Susan said this to me while sitting in conference room K (kitchen). We were getting ready to leave for an interview with a local television station and it was apparent that my “pep talk” was not having the desired effect.
We’re regularly asked various versions of the same question: “How do you two like working together?”, usually accompanied by a wry smile. After 22+ years of marriage one might think we’ve got things like communication, prioritization, and collaboration largely figured out. Truth be told, there have been a few points of friction along the way as we’ve tried to learn each other’s work styles, strengths, motivators, and desired pace.
There are a few tools we’ve used along this journey that have been extremely helpful in keeping us aligned. We’ve got a weekly to-do list of tasks that we’ve decided, together, represent the most impactful things we need to get done in the next 7 days. There is no task too small for the list, but there are many tasks that are too large, which we break down into smaller pieces in an effort to make progress. We are diligent in asking ourselves “can this really get done this week?”.
Our process works like this:
We construct a list of anywhere from 8-10 tasks on Sunday evening for the upcoming week using Google sheets (to allow both of us to share the same document).
We assign one of us to each of the tasks, generally aligned to our respective strengths and interests.
We have a color-coding system to represent our progress during the week (not started, in progress, done).
- The following Sunday we review our progress and determine what to do with any incomplete tasks (as well as some good-natured shaming for not getting your tasks done).
The process is intentionally simple, thus making it exceptionally easy to measure our progress (or not).
Our differences are unquestionably the best thing about our business relationship. Susan’s practical approach to the business is the perfect complement to my favorite game, commonly known as “What If?!”. Eric’s vision for the impact I can have in addressing the issue of childhood hunger, as well as being an example for other aspiring female entrepreneurs, forces me to think bigger than I can on my own. Do we get it right everytime? Nope. Do we let our missteps slow us down? No chance. There’s way too much at stake for us to let our differences get in the way.
(As of this writing, the “pep talks” continue to be a regular part of our meetings in conference room K. "Yay!" said Susan…never).