It is said that one must never mix professional with personal in life. But what if someone doesn’t have these two as different water-tight entities? What if someone relates and connects with their partner by sharing one common goal? These questions are most relevant for entrepreneur couples. When two people find love in the work sphere or dare to take on a business with their significant other, the world advises them to be cautious. I have heard such cautionary tales from all directions since I decided to form Repos Energy with my husband Chetan.
I was all set to fly to NYU for my further studies, but my parents like every other Indian parent had dreams of marrying their daughter off to a nice guy. I was quite determined to go out and pursue my education, but my parents were consistent in their efforts too. And so, one day, they planned to take me to meet Chetan for the first time.
We were to meet at his executive restaurant. I only yielded to their plan when I was informed that his restaurant serves some excellent chicken delicacies! Our parents had been good friends for decades and had more or less cemented the relationship, but I wasn’t prepared. For me that dinner was all about having some good food.
When I met Chetan for the first time, it was nothing like what I had in mind. Much to my surprise, we instantly connected, conversing about our dreams and our ideas to change the world. As we continued to meet, we got to know each other better. How we feel about family and friends, approach life and define its purpose, all seemed to align perfectly.
Putting aside my plans to go abroad, I made the big decision to marry Chetan. What followed was immense happiness, uncountable smiles and continual bliss. As things gradually began to settle down, I found myself wondering: “What do I do now?” Do I pursue my studies here in India or start working? If I choose the latter, what do I work towards?
Chetan was already managing his father’s retail petrol station and was thinking about starting a company to take care of the persistent problems in fuel distribution in the country.
I was a Forensics, Chemistry and International Relations’ student, wanting to make a difference in the world.
Chetan kept working on the idea of ‘Repos’, determined to find an innovative way to ease up fuel distribution by providing doorstep delivery of diesel. I weighed in with my inputs and suggestions and together we managed to paint a convincing, fool-proof business canvas.
My inputs were encouraged and I liked the plan I saw on the paper.
The next dilemma was whether I should become a partner in the business and risk mixing my personal and professional life. I was smitten by the opportunity to make a difference in the petroleum industry.
And so, I decided to take the plunge and make my life partner my business partner too!
It has now been almost two years since ‘Repos’ was formed. A team of two has grown into a team of 100+. We have seen numerous ups and downs on our start-up journey so far and I must admit I have loved every moment of it.
Looking back, I could not be happier about the decisions I had made. The apprehensions of mixing personal with professional are now irrelevant.
Once in a while I come across couples working together and see how the doubts I had at the time were not unfounded. It makes me look back on our own journey so far as an entrepreneur couple and think about what we did right.
I believe we owe our success as a couple running a business to the following lessons:
1. Communicate: People often forget the importance of communicating with their partner. Communication is a major building block for any relationship, be it personal or professional. So, maintain a healthy communication with your partner at all times, especially during moments of failures and disappointments.
(We make it a point not to sleep over unresolved matters. Instead, we talk, explain, resolve the issue and only then do we sleep.)
2. Understand: Every human being wants to be understood and appreciated, both in the professional space and the personal. A good job at work needs to be acknowledged and efforts should not be taken for granted. This holds true in the personal sphere as well. Both individuals must take an effort to understand the actions of the other, appreciate the efforts they take and acknowledge their contribution to the partnership.
3. Develop Complementary Skills: When the skill sets of partners overlap, the risk of friction increases. It is important that partners develop complementary business skills so each of them has demarcated responsibilities. In case of a difference of opinion or for tie-breakers, go with the decision of the person that holds more expertise in the matter at hand.
4. Build Trust: Be it in a personal relationship or in business, nothing can thrive without trust. Partners need to find ways of engaging with each other positively, building trust and reliability. Maybe compete as a team in sports events or enrol in new trainings and workshops together. This helps both individuals understand how their partner thinks about and approaches a situation. It enhances reliability and fosters trust in each other’s abilities.
These are a few of the lessons entrepreneur couples must learn in order to strike a golden balance.
One of the most important things I have learned from my personal experiences is that things do not always go according to plan.
A few goals will not be achieved, some dreams will never be realized and certain plans will fail. Such is life and while we cannot control adversities, we can control our reactions to them.
We must cultivate the ability to accommodate changes, and take it in our stride when things go wrong.
For the people who choose to mix their personal and professional lives, it is of paramount importance that they avoid all pitfalls to keep the business soaring and the relationship blossoming!