Last time I posted, I focused on how my working life had changed since moving into a Chairman role at Affinity Capital and joining forces with my husband to run Staude Capital. I promised then, that next time, I’d talk more about working with one’s spouse.
Well, here it is, just a few of the experiences I’ve had so far and what I’ve learnt.
How your partner operates at work
It’s amazing to think that most of us spend at least 50 hours a week away from our partners while at work. During that time, we are each using skills and talents that our partner will probably never get to witness. As a result, while we think we might know what our partner is like at work, what they’re good at, how they behave, what their strongest skills are etc, really, do we actually have any idea? I didn’t.
It is probably fair to say then, that when you start working with your partner, you take a huge leap of faith both from a career perspective and from a personal point of view. It’s a pretty big and unknown risk. From my own experience, just because someone appears successful, has a large salary or an impressive job title, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are any good at what they do or even just a good human.
I joke that one of my secret fears at the beginning was that I would discover that Miles was a ‘dud’ – that he had somehow managed to get to where he had through sheer luck or networking well or right time, right place. When the hood was lifted, I was worried that I might not like what I found. I mean, it’s a real fear right? What happens if you don’t like the person you married once you see how they operate at work? Thinking back, I really didn’t spend much time thinking about what he might think of me, but I guess there was that too!
Seeing my husband from a new perspective
Luckily for me (and let’s be honest, I probably wouldn’t be writing this piece otherwise ?), one of the most satisfying aspects of joining the team at Staude Capital has been seeing Miles in action at work and realising he’s not a dud – thank God. In fact, quite the opposite, I have been really impressed and I think more so than I thought I would be. I’ve now had the privilege of seeing a new side to my husband that I really like and admire.
I’d go as far as to say that it’s been truly energising and fulfilling to have partnered with a colleague who continues to surprise me and is excellent at what they do. Intellectually, I get to work with someone outstanding. I’m in awe of the way Miles manages the Global Fund Value, sources ideas, approaches investments and the loyalty he has to our shareholders.
Seeing him operate this way has reassured me that winding back Affinity was the right thing to do. Don’t get me wrong, it has been a journey getting to know how to work with someone who is so fundamentally different to me and I have no doubts that the journey ahead will be filled with challenges. However, so far, in the 3 years it has been since we started working together, it’s been a hugely worthwhile voyage, and one I’m so thankful I chose to take.
Learning how to be bossy together
Miles and I identified pretty early on that he and I were going to need to put some constructive work into figuring out how our work partnership was going to function. In the end, we settled on Gallup’s CliftonStrengths and the psychology around these strengths.
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, we came out with top strengths that were quite unique and even opposite to one another. For me, this explained a lot, especially during some of those dark days at the start. With help, we have been able to understand each other’s strengths and points of views. Instead of clashing about them because they were different to our own, we were able to harness them to our advantage. I guess, with a spouse, you can cut through the proverbial and hopefully get to a good place more efficiently, thereby doubling up on the company’s strengths.
In this process, I learnt how to merge my ‘bossy energy’ into his so that we could lead together, without either one of us crushing the other. It’s something I know we have to work on all the time. We do have disagreements, of course. We don’t always see things from the same perspective. It’s never going to be perfect, but then, what on earth is? We’re always learning to adapt our lives to fit in with new routines, new people or new environments – working with your spouse is no different.
In our case, we’ve chosen to use our different strengths to divide our responsibilities. Miles’ talents predominantly lie in managing and investing the portfolio of our investors. Our aim over the long term is for Miles to devote most of his time and energy to research and investing. On my side, the aim is for me to run our businesses efficiently and to ensure that we always make our shareholders and our employees our top priority.
These roles seem to play to our strengths and hopefully, over time, will play to the strength of our businesses together.