The Other Half
Wednesday December 13, 2017
Toddler’s down for the night (I actually started with “baby” here, then had to delete and cry a little inside - 18 month olds are officially little people) and I’m spending my 7:30 mama’s happy hour propped up on the bed in our guestroom that we affectionately call “Dot’s” - a nickname I gave her when we were still in our teens. Yes, we’ve given our guest bedroom over to my sister, business partner, best friend, life co-journeyer who also happens to live one minute away in her own sweet home with husband and puppy.
Why I’m sharing this underlies these questions we receive so often - How in the world do you do it? How are you still talking to each other? How could you even risk working together?
When I started this company in June 2014, I had no idea that Donna would come work with me a year later, and even more so that she would become half of Our Heiday a year after that. She was living in New York as a teacher and I was running on a creative high after escaping a potentially miserable career in law. Two career shifts, a cross-country move, a life-threatening pregnancy (more on this later), a studio move, and huge milestones later, we’re now doing life in the fullest sense, together.
Today (and often everyday) looks like this: Donna picks me up in the morning and we carpool to the studio with our pups laying down in the backseat talking about new releases and what we’re having for dinner tonight. Arrive at the studio, a quick check-in with the team, then we settle into our desks, side by side. The day is spent rapid fire - Hey, should we take these to the J.Crew pop-up? Can you respond to this collaboration inquiry? When is that shipment coming in? I paint, she budgets. The day is gone in a blink and before I know it, we’re back at my house, after she decides to walk over from hers, so she can see Charlotte for an hour. In between reading sticker books and throwing together dinner, we’ve answered work emails and discussed tomorrow’s itinerary. For us, as sisters running a creative business, everything is interwoven. And it works beautifully.
While you may not have the twenty months apart sibling who can complete your sentences benefit that we do, it’s entirely possible to consider a partnership beyond this relationship. I’ve talked to a few business partners (married pairs, friends, cousins) along the way and considering all situations, I’ve found three essentials in making a business partnership thrive:
1. Shoulder each other's burdens.
The most successful business partnerships I’ve seen are those whose personal and work lives are intertwined, to some varying degree, and both people embrace this as part of the trust that’s inherent in building something together; as women, this might mean you have the boyfriend meltdown at work on occasion, the rants about what it takes to be a mom and love the work that you do, the hard talks about losing loved ones. You shoulder each other’s burdens fiercely. Not only does this open communication, but the trust that grows through vulnerability lays deep roots for your work marriage.
2. Be equally invested.
I’m going to assume that your partner was carefully considered because you have complementary strengths and weaknesses; you know that you’d work well together. But even though this may be, if both people are not pouring into the pot an equal share, it can lead to all sorts of heartache. At the end of the day, no one else should work as hard as you both do, no one else should want this amazing thing you’re doing together to grow as much as you do. And to avoid tension, misunderstandings, and a bitter dissolution, the investment has to be mutual, equal. Whether this is through capital contributions, manual labor, sacrifices in personal time, the other has to know you’re pulling your share.
3. Share the same vision.
Donna and I revisit our vision and mission for Our Heiday consistently because as our business has grown, we’ve been pulled into so many directions and it’s crucial that we don’t lose sight of why we’re doing the work that we’re doing. Even though there are so many bigger and better things you can do with two when you’re heading toward the same goal, the hits that you take can come doubly hard if that destabilizes. Talk about everything. What products you’ll bring to market, the benefits you want for your team, what partnerships you’ll never pursue, the work life balance you want to maintain - align the vision.
Having my sister to work alongside has been the biggest gift; the world that’s opened having an extension of my brain and another set of hands to handle so many things that I couldn’t is something I so wish for you. We’re meant to do things together, as humans. We’re wired this way. Here’s to finding the good ones.