At Cobalt Settlements, Jeff Nowak and Tina Fox are co-owners, co-workers and married to one another. They recently sat down and had a discussion about what it’s like to work together as spouses.
Jeff: I have to start with the positive. I’m reassured to know that I have a partner whose strengths balance out my own. Tina is a networker, a salesperson and a communicator. All of these abilities are necessary to our business. I certainly get out there to meet clients and prospects, but Tina is a powerhouse, so I it gives me great confidence and reassurance to have someone who models what doesn’t come as naturally to me.
Tina: I agree that we work really well together because we each have strengths, and we defer to one another in our areas of expertise. That doesn’t mean we don’t have opinions, but we know one another well enough to realize who should be taking the lead on different issues.
Jeff: But more than that, I have confidence that, as business partners, we are equally committed to one another’s success in the business. After all, we have the same kids, mortgage and life to support at home, so we are jointly motivated.
Tina: I think we share the same vision that we want to see the business succeed, and we recognize that our partnership will help that to happen if we are honest about a smart division of labor. I know of a lot of business partners who have separate motivations and goals, and this can be a killer for the company. We don’t have that problem.
Jeff: For me, a real benefit to our arrangement is that we get to spend more time together. When Tina and I had jobs at separate places, it wasn’t always easy to do that. Now, during the work day, even if we aren’t spending “quality time,” I get to see her.
Tina: But let’s get real about that. Sometimes it’s hard to find alone time when you are with your partner all the work day and at home. And speaking of quality time, we sometimes forget to plan for time alone together as a couple, which we both agree is critical to a successful relationship.
Jeff: That’s true. We probably should have more date nights! And to Tina’s point, working together gives us less space to process disagreements. I am not always good at compartmentalizing between work and home. So, a disagreement in one place can bleed over into the other. Even when we are in agreement, it’s hard to leave work at work and home at home. But, for each of these areas to succeed, I need to try to do that.
Tina: I’m better at compartmentalizing, but it takes work and effort to make sure that it happens. You definitely can’t brush things under the rug! One thing that has helped us has been working with a professional coach. We both see the same coach, who acts as a neutral third party to check ourselves when we disagree about the business. Of course, as a successfully married couple, we had experience working out differences before we started working together, and that has been really helpful.
Jeff: If I had to come up with three words to describe working together, I’d say honesty, trust and communication. Without these three, we wouldn’t succeed. But, as a couple, we had the groundwork for all of these aspects of our working relationship.
Tina: I want to add one more word: depth. I think working together has deepened our relationship. One thing I love about working with Jeff is I get to see him in his element – successfully doing what he does best. It makes me proud, and I find him all the more attractive for being so accomplished. Also, having our goals for family and business – work and personal- aligned has made us have so many more conversations and compromises about our goals, and this has made us stronger as a couple.