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Til Death Do Us Part: Dallas entrepreneurs give tips on working with their partner

This is the time of year when love is in the air, candle-lit dinner tables are being booked, and we put aside the practical for the romantic. However, for the coupled owners of an estimated 3 million small businesses in the United States, it’s a bit harder to leave business at the front doorstep.

Launch DFW spoke with two couples – Manuel Valencia and Jacqueline Chen Valencia of Connective Agency and Courtney and Tye Caldwell of Shearshare – about their advice to remaining balanced and successful in love, life and entrepreneurship.

Meet Manuel and Jacqueline Chen Valencia

In person, Manuel and Jacqueline, who have been married for 11 years, are both high energy, only differing in their underlying currents.

Photo credit: Christopher Alvarado

An MBA graduate from the Ross School of Business at University of Michigan, Manny was always attracted to working with companies in their early stages, from start up to IPO, and it’s reflected in how he engages: mentally connecting the dots between people, places and products.

Jacqueline’s background in corporate PR environments at Ogilvy, Adecco and Balfour Beatty is evident in her aura of calm authority. In their Common Desk Oak Cliff offices, they talked about how and why Jacqueline joined Connective Agency and what’s changed along the way.

After a corporate move from Baton Rouge, LA, Jacqueline found herself seeking a new experience after a career divided between agency life and Fortune 500 companies. Manny, who was just over two years into starting Connective Agency, suggested Jacqueline join him at the company in 2016.

Photo credit: Christopher Alvarado

“I’m super risk-averse, he’s Mr. Risk, entrepreneur…so even though the thought scared me, it also seemed really exciting. It was one of those things, if not now, then when?” Jacqueline said. “If you put a time parameter around it, it doesn’t seem so bad.”

The move wasn’t without its pros and cons; the idea of applying her skill set “unchained, untethered” excited her but the financial uncertainty of entrepreneurship was frightening as a person who enjoyed a biweekly paycheck all of her career.

“The potential con that turned into a positive was what it could potentially do to our relationship, our friendship and our marriage,” Jacqueline explained. “I wanted to make sure that we were both super clear up front that no matter what happened with the business that our marriage and our friendship would have to be protected and separated, like church and state. Home life and business life.”

Advice from Manny and Jacqueline

Invest in team building and culture

M: “We very intentionally invested in that [business relationship] when we started with a leadership coach to hear out loud and document how we work, what are the things we love to do and what are the things we don’t love to do…we do that each time a new member of the team joins.”

J: “Culture is so important. We spent 10 to 12 hours a day together, working really hard and having fun too. It’s important to know where each other’s boundaries are and where to push or not push each other.”

Have your own lane

J: “We have our own swim lanes and leverage each other’s strengths…it’s like a relay race [between the roles].”

Meet Tye and Courtney Caldwell

Tye and Courtney Caldwell are also clear that their personal relationship matters more than business. As the co-owners of Shearshare, a first-of-its-kind app that connects salon and barbershop owners with independent stylists to fill unused space and suites on demand, the couple spends the work day and beyond together, traveling often to meet clients around the country and attend conferences and trainings.

Shots of Shearshare. Photo courtesy: Tye and Courtney Caldwell

“Even when we’re together all day, you still want to take advantage of the time you have together. We always walk the dog together, but sometimes I say ‘You go walk the dog,’” Tye said of their relationship.

In 2016, Tye was busy as a salon owner in addition to writing a book and traveling to various beauty schools as a teacher, and Courtney was working across several continents with Oracle.

A chance opportunity led to the couple providing concierge services as a bridge between freelance stylists and salons for three years. Tye and Courtney knew the market for shared spaces was present and the process could be automated through an app. Launching Shearshare was a no-brainer for the duo, a combination of Tye’s decades in the beauty industry and Courtney’s marketing and operational expertise.

Photo courtesy: Tye and Courtney Caldwell

“He’s a visionary, I’m the executor,” Courtney said of their individual expertise. “We don’t step on each other’s toes. Because of that, we each have the freedom and the flexibility to run like heck as hard as we can toward the end goal.”

That’s not to say that being in business together doesn’t have its challenges.

“You’re putting a lot of time, so understanding that balance of making sure you’re taking care of yourself at any moment, [your] time, energy…finding a way to center yourself individually,” Tye explained.

Advice from Courtney and Tye

Support each other’s dreams and push each other to get better

When Courtney initially started her consultancy, Tye’s advice was “Jump and grow wings on the way down.” Of his wife, Tye said “She pushes me to the limits…she sees it and I wonder how she knows.”

Trust the process: Every success story looks like an overnight success but it’s not

C: “If you go into it knowing there is a process for everything, a rhyme and a reason, a time and a season for everything, I think people would be more inclined to go into entrepreneurship.”

Keep your personal and professional goals top of mind

C: “In marriage you work on lifelong friendship, partnership. Going into business with my cofounder who also happens to be my husband, we still have goals that we’re trying to accomplish together every day.”