Phil Castle, The Business Times
Marc and Alowetta Terrien have worked together for 13 of their 35 years of marriage.
Life as what the Terriens call couple-preneurs requires commitment to not only their business, but also their relationship, Marc says. “That’s a lot of all in.”
The Terriens say business is better and their lives more rewarding because of their shared efforts. It’s essential, though, to define roles, set boundaries and maintain communication.
To help others perform what at times can be a balancing act, the Terriens have launched Married to Business and an effort to develop a community of couples who support one another with their stories and strategies.
It’s an important undertaking, Alowetta says, because a lot of small businesses in the United States remain mom and pop shops. “It’s a very common structure.”
The Terriens operate Thin Air, a website design, software development and digital marketing firm that serves more than 200 clients nationwide.
Alowetta came up with the idea for Married to Business as a way to help other couples operating businesses together. She initially intended to write a book sharing her experiences and the experiences of others she’s interviewed.
Alowetta says she still might write the book, but Married to Business has evolved beyond that concept into a support structure for entrepreneurial couples. The goal, she says, is to provide stories, strategies and tools to help them successfully combine marriage and business.
The effort includes, naturally, a website at www.marriedtobusiness.com that features stories and strategies as well as a way for others to share their experiences. The Terriens recently led a presentation to about 75 people at a summit for entrepreneurs who operate ventures out of recreational vehicles.
Over the course of their careers, the Terriens have worked in a variety of positions for corporations and small businesses. They’ve worked together since they launched a website design and real estate photography business in 2005 and purchased Thin Air in 2007 and expanded what was a web development businesses based in Crested Butte.
The Terriens say there are advantages and disadvantages for married couples working together. The highs of the shared experience are higher, but the lows can be lower. There’s also the risk a failed business could lead to a failed marriage.
It’s essential, they say, for couples who work together to not only define their roles and responsibilities, but also understand and respect them. At Thin Air, Marc handles sales, technical writing and interacting with clients. Alowetta handles social media, content writing and bookkeeping.
It helps to have a structure of some sort in place, Alowetta says. “We learned that tool early on, and it has served us well.”
It’s essential as well to set boundaries, the Terriens says — scheduling certain times to conduct business along with times not to. And when one person indicates they don’t want to talk about business any more, the other person should comply.
More than anything, couples who work together must maintain communication, the Terriens say.
The couple conducts informal meetings on a daily and weekly basis to exchange information and discuss any issues that arise. It’s important to recognize that problems presented as business issues could actually be personal issues.
The Terriens also maintain a shared digital calendar to not only prevent their activities from overlapping, but also schedule time off together.
The Terriens say they don’t serve as marriage counselors, but can share their experiences and advice as a couple that’s worked together for 13 of their 35 years of marriage.