About ten years ago, we were presented with the opportunity to join forces as recruiters in our own firm. Trudy had been recruiting for eight years by this time, during which time she had developed a strong business in the Biotechnology sector, while I maintained a successful career in sales management in another industry. She happily realized at this point that her business had reached a level where an additional recruiter had become necessary to handle the volume. One day, she called me while I was on a typical road trip and [half-jokingly] asked if I wanted to become a ‘Head Hunter’. To her surprise and mine, I said yes! Ten years later we know this was the right decision for us and we believe it can be for other motivated couples as well.
Getting to our joint success was a multi-faceted process that continues today. There were lots of things to consider, from managing our client list to who will be president of our company, but the allure of running our own business together gave us the impetus to decide that whatever we needed to do to make this work, we would do it!
Initially, the biggest challenge was recognizing that we both have healthy egos from our previous successes, and that for our partnership to thrive we had to be willing to make a daily effort to always consider the needs of the business first. Whether it was about training, division of labor, recognizing which strengths we each brought to the table, or home vs. outside offices, etc., these issues all had to be discussed and then action had to be taken in order to maximize our efforts.
One such issue that came up almost immediately was training. How would I get trained during work hours without us neglecting a thriving business? It was just the two of us in the office and we found it difficult for Trudy to dedicate large chunks of time to instructing me in how the recruiting process works and still handle all those phone calls. Here is how we tackled this issue:
- We assessed the most salient aspects of the recruiting process on which to concentrate in order to achieve active participation at my desk in the shortest period of time.
- We built upon my 25 years of experience and knowledge of the sales process and expanded to concepts of ‘selling’ talent vs. hiring. (I had an expertise in the latter)
- We scheduled one dedicated, uninterrupted hour each day, for one month, to do formal training; phones went to voice mail so I had all of Trudy’s attention!
- We solicited sound advice/training from two other very successful recruiter-friends to avoid that possible “clash of egos”; (i.e. “Trudy, you have to do it this way, not that”, etc.). This worked out well initially and we both continue this today with our training partners in order to keep ourselves sharp and our work habits from becoming rote.
Taking these actions afforded me the opportunity to assimilate to the intricacies of the process sooner, help keep up the pace of our business, and allowed me to plunge full-time into ‘building my desk’.
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It is also very important to learn to play off one another’s strengths when working together. Each partner will have talents they should exploit, but it is equally important to admit to areas that need improvement. This is very logical when you are dealing strictly with business relationships, but for married partners, it is not as easy as it sounds. Zeroing in on this early allowed us to move ahead quickly and work out the kinks, getting our business in synch and defining our profile/branding to our client companies.
Be ready and willing to acknowledge who is better at what tasks. Listen to each other’s ideas and be willing to admit when your idea or way of doing something is not the best route. This is important to both your business and your relationship. For example:
- Being the über-organized one, I computerized our database, adding a touch of ‘sanity’ to our organizational process, re-organized the daily work flow, etc. (Trudy agreed that stacks of résumés under her desk was not an efficient filing system)
- Trudy, being the experienced recruiter in the family, helped me maximize time with hiring authorities and define the finer points of assessing/coaching candidates, what an MPC is, etc.
- Together, we decided and perfected all follow-up tasks and daily, monthly, and quarterly organization plans and goals.
- Listen to each other’s ideas and be able to admit when ‘yours’ is not the better one; it’s important to your business and your relationship.
As a final word of caution, being ‘attached at the hip’ can be hazardous to your marriage. We have found that to make this work, it is important never to take business decisions personally. All ideas and actions must be designed to make your business more successful and ultimately make both of you happier. But at the end of each day, shut off the phones, recap, discuss, and then…back to being husband and wife.
In closing, once you and your spouse make the decision to work together, it is incumbent upon both of you to decide, at the very beginning, how you will structure your company, allot training time, and which partner will assume what responsibilities to achieve the best, most effective use of your business time. There will always be new problems and challenges along the way with which to deal, but with the proper groundwork and foundation as well as a good sense of humor, you’ll find nothing to be insurmountable, and you’ll create your own successes. We wish you the best, and happy recruiting!