At first, I didn't know many people that worked this closely with their partner.
Here is some background on how my partner Bill and I work together, and our dynamic:
We’ve been together 17 years, after meeting in our 3rd year at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. I knew from the moment I met him that I was going to marry him. (I’m one of those people who has visualizations and things come to me. I’m very in tune with what those feelings are, and I could tell many stories of all the “woo” and I knew the moment I met him that I was gonna marry him.)
Right from the beginning, we had similar interests in entrepreneurship. I remember seeing checks on his bulletin board that he hadn’t cashed yet, which reminded me of my dad and the way he saved money. From the start, we were very aligned with our goals and values. We even started a business called Lazy Groceries… we were a little too early on the grocery delivery thing, but we thought it was a great idea! Our idea of fun was creating marketing materials, handing them out, and putting them under people’s doors and doing crazy things like that together. We’ve always had similar interests in marketing, starting businesses and the freedom that can provide.
We’ve been married 11 years now, and we took some time to live in Vietnam. We set up an office and learned how to export products. I’ve always been involved in the health and fitness industry, and Bill had spent tons of time trying to understand the internet and what people are doing to make money on it. (He’s an OG when it comes to understanding how blogs and Youtube work.) In the beginning, I remember being a little annoyed at how much time he was spending on the computer… and now it’s our life!
I remember being in our 20’s and understanding that we need to put in a ton of time, and cross our fingers and hope something works. We’ve been at this together a really long time. From the very beginning, we’ve dreamt of how to build a business online and create a life of freedom. I’m very fortunate to have a partner that wants the same things in terms of seeing that bigger picture and vision. I really think this is where a lot of people struggle: they haven’t flushed out what their goals are and what they really want, even if it’s not perfect!
We set a lot of goals together in those early days. In the health and fitness industry, we always did goal-setting so it was something Bill and I always talked about. What are we driving towards? What does our life look like? After reading Tim Ferris’ book, The 4 Hour Work Week, we said screw the 9-5 and moved to Vietnam to figure out how we could live a little differently. Now our purpose has turned into helping others leave the 9-5 and find the same time freedom. We wanted to determine how much money we could make, and when we could work.
It wasn’t until the last 5 years that things really changed. It’s one thing to have goals aligned and be working toward the same things…but then to be building a business, with marriage AND kids in there… you HAVE to have balance and that’s when I’d say our skills HAD to improve. Before, we could balance everything out by just going to work and not being in each other’s space all the time. At night, we’d take courses and do some learning together. But when the business became everything we talked about, we needed to learn new skill sets and find balance. We’ve been doing a new course called “Rekindling Desire” that’s been phenomenal! It’s about how to create desire in a space where you’ve both become one, especially when you have a business you’re both working on… and a child. We used to be able to work on our business all the time, but now that we have a 19 month old, our schedule has completely changed. We have a little one that determines our schedule and comes first. It’s a tricky situation! We’ve got our business, our baby, and our marriage that we’re trying to navigate. It’s been a learning process, and it’s not graceful! I think some people grow up watching their parents easily navigate these things, and other people had parents who didn’t have to navigate all these things together. When it comes to the 3 chunks of this pie - business, marriage and babies - we definitely had to set some rules when it came to what we talked about.
A couple of key rules we’ve had to set up:
Now if we’re super excited about something positive and want to share it, that’s awesome, and we’ve gotten good at that! But we’ve had to catch ourselves. What used to happen is we’d be hanging out with our daughter or sitting around the dinner table, and if something about the business came up that wasn’t a solution or wasn’t positive, it would feel like it was taking away from our time with her. I didn’t want Coco to grow up thinking her parents only talked about business.
We read a book called Traction, and it talks about the fundamentals of what businesses need in order to be successful. It comes down to certain things, and one of those is an “Issues List.” So you’re always adding to the issues list, instead of running to your partner. Then you have a weekly meeting where you’re discussing those issues as a team. It’s been a game changer! Nobody wants to feel like all they talk about with their partner is issues, and when you’re an entrepreneur, you can’t afford to get sidetracked by issues. You have to focus on what needs to get done in that moment.
When you have two people who have strong opinions on where the business should go and what it should look like, it’s important to get clear on who is in charge of what. Don’t report to each other. Bill is Finance and Tech, I am Sales and Strategy. Those are our focuses. We’re in meetings together, but there’s always our Operations Manager or other people in the room. We go from husband and wife, to head of Finance and Tech and head of Sales and Marketing and the meetings really change. In the business it’s important for us to be individuals, and not be so close together that we don't have individuality. It’s important to me as a person to feel successful about the contributions I can make, and when you get into husband and wife mode, you tend to talk to your spouse differently sometimes… or one of us will pick up a certain tone that other people might not pick up! So the more we could separate our roles in the business, and the more he could feel good about the things he accomplished and same with me, it was SO much easier to balance everything. (I’m not saying it was easy… many times, I was on Google searching for how couples communicate when it comes to business!)
Both of my parents were entrepreneurs and they had a lot of pressure that came with it, which was hard. We had a crazy childhood. My parents did so much traveling, and there was abundance all around us. One of my beliefs - which I’d now call a limiting belief - is that that comes with a price. It doesn’t HAVE to come with a price, but it’s all about how you negotiate with your partner and learn to separate and compartmentalize.
The child component is an amazing one that we also have to balance. It was VERY challenging in the beginning, when we didn’t have childcare. I was talking to my therapist, and during the first six months I kept asking her why I was struggling. Why am I not over the moon excited, especially after suffering losses and struggling to get to this point? It was hard to grapple with, but as we narrowed it down, it always came down to childcare. My business became an outlet for me when I had losses; I’d always poured time and energy into it. So when it was no longer available, it felt like a piece of me was missing. As we were analyzing everything, it became very clear that I was a better mother when I had more help. It was a key part of balancing our business, having a baby, and our marriage. When you or your partner is independently happy, it creates a happy marriage. It’s your role to take care of yourself first, which leads into my last point:
It's truly an inside job, and we have to be happy with ourselves first before we can expect to bring that happiness into a marriage. For me, making sure I’m meditating, working out and communicating what I need makes me a better mother and partner. It’s not selfish, it’s a component of a happy life and happy marriage. You have to do those things if it’s part of what makes you feel good about yourself. It’ll make you feel good as a partner. Part of this amazing course we’re taking - “Rekindling Desire” - talks about how it all starts with YOU. You have to be able to show up as that person who knows what makes them feel good and turns them on. It's not your partner’s job. That’s why it’s not selfish to desire those things for yourself. When you feel good, you can bring that to your marriage. It’s not a game of how many people you can put before you; that doesn’t make you a good mother. (Not for me, at least.) Ultimately, I truly believe that doing the things that make me feel good is how I’m going to show up as a better partner in our marriage and a better mother.
All of the things I’ve talked about and explained has allowed me to balance our business, balance being a mother and being married without killing my partner. I might be making it sound very easy and like you just need to do these things and everything will be roses… oh no. We’ve definitely had to work at this and try to find out what makes the biggest difference, and do a ton of reading to develop ourselves... but ultimately, these are the things we’ve found to make the BIGGEST difference, and gotten us to the other side.
It’s been a huge change that we’ve implemented just over the last year! If you’re out there feeling hopeless and have no idea on how you're gonna balance everything, let me tell you: it takes concerted effort on the right things, but taking care of yourself, making sure you feel really good in your body, and doing all the things you need to do are what’s important. You can’t have energy to do other things if you're not taking care of yourself first. If you’re spending all your energy taking care of your kids and your business, you won’t have room at the end of the day to take care of anyone else. You’re better off figuring out how to take care of yourself, so you’ll have extra bandwidth to take care of others.
I really hope this episode was helpful, and that there were some takeaways and ah-ha moments! It’s definitely been a journey, and there’ve been SO many things we’ve both learned over the last year. I feel like we’re in a great place now, but something I said to my husband just the other day is whenever I’m struggling with something, it always takes a little personal development in that area and it takes the pressure off. All of a sudden I understand more. We can get trapped in our own brains of not knowing what to do, and get sucked into an endless cycle of thinking about the problem. That’s not a solution. The solution is to educate yourself and develop more skills, because usually it boils down to a process problem you just don’t understand yet.
Key Takeaways From This Episode:
Rekindling Desire Course by Esther Perel: https://rekindlingdesire.estherperel.com/sign-up
The 4 Hour Work Week: https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin=B002WE46UW&preview=newtab&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_PFR210499DSE26RAXB9Q
WHERE WE CAN CONNECT:
Don’t forget….. If you loved this episode, screenshot it and share it to your IG stories and tag me @theashleyshaw. I would love to connect with you!