My husband and I celebrated our 30th year running a home-based, tourism business in 2020, and up until this year, I did not know why people thought that was any great achievement.
It has always seemed simple to me. This is our life, and it’s just what we do.
That is until coronavirus knocked, sealed all the doors, borders shut, and he was ‘in’ the house with me.
Yes, we have long been in business together, but he was riding his motorcycle and guiding tours in Cape York, for 250 days a year on average, and I was running the business from home.
So in reality, of the 10,950 days, we’ve only been in business together for nine years. Boy, don’t I have a new appreciation for those who really truly live and work together.
Those boys (my son is a motorcycle tour guide also) eat three times a day, every day, in my kitchen!
1. Define your role
It’s made me think about how we’ve done it and what are the seriously important things that helped us.
I guess the first one was to have clearly defined roles! My husband goes out on the bike with the guides and support vehicle so he takes control of that part.
We labelled his role as operations and I take control of everything that is based at home: administration.
We each own the voting rights of our own role. No arguments.
The business part was easy, the housework part was not, but I won’t beat down that path here.
2. Trust your partner and communicate
Once the roles are defined you have to communicate with and trust your partner to make those decisions. Don’t micromanage or undermine your partner.
Just think if you were in an office with ‘Jim’ sitting in a separate cubicle for nine years, would you be asking him the same question in the same manner?
Be professional when it’s about business.
3. Make a commitment to do a workweek
When you are at home, it is super easy to get distracted, and so I make a conscious decision and commitment to show up for work each week.
I am committed to working eight hours a day for five days a week in the business and I literally keep track of them as if I were a paid employee.
I do overtime only when it is crucial to my job, and that means always keeping the customer happy in a timely manner. If it can wait, it does!
The beauty of being at home is today I showed up at 2am to do five hours work in my pyjamas. Then, I’m going to play with my grandson for three hours, have lunch, and a nap, before doing my last three hours, and I’m done and I’m proud of myself and I’m grateful to be so spoiled!
My husband is on a different schedule. He’s a night owl, and usually starts work after 10am, and so it’s important that we set time to cross-check our directions to make sure we are on the same track.
We’ve been doing this for a while so it only takes 10 minutes about five times a week to stay organised, and then we head off into our different roles again.
Lots of people will have an opinion on how you should do things but our ‘system’ kind of evolved out of respect for each other and because we were both learning business.
I remember feeling uncomfortable when a friend came for a coffee at 10am one morning and hubby was still in bed. She got cranky with that idea and started being louder than normal. She thought I should be cranky at him for slacking on a weekday too.
I was a bit conflicted at the time but it dawned on me that it wasn’t any of her business and she was making a very uneducated assumption.
He’s a night owl and after having dinner with and putting the kids to bed he’d worked on bikes well into the wee hours. Whereas I get up with the birds, or rather, the kids, and get them off to school!
How lucky are we to be able to live our lives in sync with our natural body clock?
I mean, isn’t that one of the big reasons why we go into business for ourselves.
4. Define your direction and normal
To survive in business together you have to know why you are there, which direction you are travelling in and what is going to be your acceptable normal.
Every adventure has a map and both of you have to be finding treasure along the way otherwise you will be easily confused by the criticism of friends who don’t understand and just want you to be ‘9-to-5 normal’.
5. Hire someone smarter
I actually had someone smarter than me tell me how to create the map. I can’t take that as an original idea, nor can I take the idea to hire the smart people to do the right jobs in your business, but I can say from experience what a difference it makes when you do it!
Trust me, if you are sitting there doing your BAS and finding every excuse to be distracted and just feeling shitty and confused about it all, go find someone who likes doing it!
Have you ever noticed that the things you are good at are easy to do?
Spend your time in those jobs and get smarter people to do the other stuff. It will reward you in so many ways.
6. Maintain your own identity and hobbies
It took me a long time to realise that every time I felt dissatisfied and disillusioned by the business were the times that I had let it completely absorb me.
I joined a business woman’s club and it made me realise how important it was to have outside hobbies and people. The ladies inspired me individually and professionally and they reminded me that I was in fact female. Being in a male-dominated career can do things to a lady, and it was really nice to spend time with professional women.
When I am happy, I am creative and use my powers for good instead of evil, and the business is easy again.
It’s all well and good for people to say that you have to be passionate about your business, but you have to replenish that in other ways too.
My husband is usually riding his motorcycle and guiding tours in Cape York, for 250 days a year, while I run the business from home.
Well, he did that for the last 29 years, so I have gotten quite used to my house being my house and I like things to be just so and routines to be maintained.
When he comes home for the wet season it’s not always smooth sailing as he likes to put his two cents’ worth into how things should be run or how my children should be raised. Hmmm.
Move forward to 2020 and the four-month wet season has become a 12-month sit-in and… the whole world is now facing the same problem.
We all have to work from home with our spouses.
When the inevitable disagreement does occur, it is time to head off into your separate corners for some ‘spousal distancing’.
7. Make sure you have defined retreat spaces
We are lucky enough to now be on a 70-acre property that has a very large man shed and that is definitely Roy’s space. However, it used to be just the suburban garage.
Ladies, let me tell you a man’s garage or shed is his sacred space, just like the master suite bedroom in the house is ‘my’ space!
If you are living together and working together (or locked in together), I think it is important to have a place that is your ultimate private retreat, and that the concept is understood by all parties.
These places and spaces within your shared area should be clearly defined and respected every day.
He respectfully lets me watch my shows on television, ‘without comment’, in my extremely tidy bedroom, while I always put the tools back exactly where I found them when borrowed from his space.
8. What’s your white flag?
If you choose to take time out in retreat I think it is equally important to set up a white flag signal.
We have learnt to wipe the slate clean every morning, no matter what. Don’t hold grudges.
The final two points in this series are the most important I think.
9. Create a workspace
It is as crucially important to define a workspace as it is to have a retreat space.
The workspace should be just that: the place where the work is done.
This is not the place to chat about house duties or parenting, it’s purely work-focused.
Save your ‘personal’ discussions for personal time and vice versa, don’t bring up business in a personal area or in personal time.
Write yourself a note and bring up that brilliant idea at the right time.
10. Stick to the routine
Once you have allocated times and spaces for business, stick to the routine you have created, and commit to it as if someone else was paying you to do so.
My best client is my ‘visualised’ boss and I’m not going to let them down.