To work together or not work together—that is the question. The thought of spending every waking hour with your spouse can be daunting. Will I get alone time? What if we disagree on something? How can we juggle family/home life and work meetings? To answer some of those questions, FCNews talked to Rod and Madeleine Bayless of RFMS; Sam and Margie O’Krent of O’Krent Floors; and Jim and Donna Mudd of Sam Kinnaird Flooring. Following are some of their tips to successfully working with your significant other.
Donna and Jim Mudd Sam Kinnaird’s Flooring, Louisville, Ky.
Owning a business and working full time while raising a family may seem like a tall order, but for Donna and Jim Mudd it became second nature. They’ve known each other for 48 years and do almost everything together, so working together was no challenge. “The first time I saw Jim Mudd, I was behind the counter at a Ponderosa Steakhouse,” Donna Mudd recalled. “He had come in with his coach and I just thought he was like, the bomb.” Fast forward 48 years later and the couple has been married for 46 years. During that time, Jim realized he wanted to run his own business and get back into flooring with his tennis partner and dear friend, Sam Kinnaird. The two opened Sam Kinnaird’s Flooring alongside Merv Huber, Jim’s friend from high school. Donna began to help out at the store part time while she was an elementary school teacher, working 5 p.m.- 8 p.m. until transitioning to full time. While Jim and Donna do not work side-by-side due to their positions within the company (Jim working in the executive offices; Donna working the storefronts) they manage to see each other for lunch each day, talk about all things business and are active in the NFA together. Jim served as NFA president while Donna was the rug chair for years.
“[Working together] certainly gives us a lot to talk about at home,” Jim Mudd said. “Good, bad or indifferent.” Donna explained that while they don’t work in the same office or even in the same building, it doesn’t take away from the business decisions they have to make together. For example, they confer about advertising, what stock to bring in, what products to place on the floor and attend markets together as well. However, when their workday ends, they know when to turn it off. “When we get home, typically, she will tell me what problems she had during the day and I will tell her what problems I had—if there were problems, which there always is,” Jim Mudd said. “Then it’s like, OK, that’s it! And we go have fun.” In order to successfully work with your spouse, the Mudd’s suggested knowing when to stop talking about work. Instead, explore shared hobbies, play a sport, listen to music and just spend quality time with one another while also making time for yourself as an individual. “You have to have a good relationship and a lot of commonalities outside the business,” Donna Mudd said. “There is life besides flooring.”
Rod and Madeleine Bayless, RFMS
Hailing from Tuscaloosa, Ala., Rod and Madeleine Bayless have been married for 15 years. Since locking eyes at an Alabama football game, the two were inseparable. They now share two children and a business. The decision to team up was not something that was meticulously planned, according to Madeleine Bayless. RFMS founder Terry Wheat made the decision to transition toward retirement and a second generation would take over. That second generation entailed his daughter, Madeleine. After Wheat’s decision was made, Madeleine said she knew almost immediately she wanted Rod by her side. “I have always had a lot of admiration for both his work ethic and his strategic business think-ing,” Madeleine explained. “I knew he was the right partner for me in this venture.” While balancing their son’s t-ball games and running RFMS, they say their work and home life blend seamlessly together due to their solid relationship and ability to speak their minds freely to one another.
“Everything runs together but the good thing about it is we’re always on the same page,” Rod Bayless explained. “Whether it’s work or home life, we’re always on the same page, running in the same direction, which is really helpful.” While they may ultimately end up on the same page, sometimes it takes a constructive conversation in order to reach an agreement they both deem best for the company, the couple said. “I think, obviously, if you work together, whether it’s a spouse or any coworker, there are going to be disagreements,” Madeleine Bayless pointed out. “Fortunately, Rod and I are both really candid people. We generally say what we’re thinking, even if we know the other person might not agree. And we’re OK with that. We’ve been together a long time and there’s a really deep level of respect in the other person’s opinion whether it’s exactly the same or not.” For other couples considering a joint business adventure, Rod recommended making sure managing friction isn’t an issue. “[If] they do everything they can to avoid friction, it’s probably not the best idea to work together,” Rod advised. “You do need the ability to say, ‘Hey, I disagree with you on that.’ To run a successful business, you have to be willing to look at both sides and to work through it.”
Sam and Margie O’Krent, O’Krent Floors, San Antonio, Texas
Sam and Margie O’Krent, childhood sweethearts, met when they were just 14 and 15 years old; they have been married for 37 years. Sam grew up in the family business, watching his great-grandparents, grandparents and his parents work alongside each other at O’Krent Floors. While Sam would follow in their footsteps, Margie said she never imagined getting into the family business herself. Margie O’Krent had worked for a large public accounting firm for six years and, after finding herself on the partnership track, she knew it wasn’t for her. She then switched gears and applied to American Airlines, becoming a flight attendant. “I went into our marriage saying, ‘I will never, ever, ever work in the family business,’” Margie O’Krent recalled. That was short lived. Eventually, Sam asked to tap Margie’s financial skill set to tackle an issue at the store. From then on, the two would work together at O’Krent Floors.
Aside from balancing each other out, the couple said they pride themselves on their communication—something they said is essential not only when working together but in a relationship in general. Even if it’s regarding something only one of them is involved in, the duo said they are constantly copying each other on emails and participate in the daily huddles as well as strategic planning. By focusing on their communication during their workday, it removes the need to rehash it at home, they noted. “The spouse of an employee, all they typically hear is the bad stuff about the business,” Sam O’Krent stated. “You go to work, you come home and if you’re going to talk at all about your day, you’re going to talk about the bad stuff. Now we’re in a situation where we don’t have to fill each other in on what’s going on—good or bad.” Another way to succeed in working together as a couple is to embrace your differences, the couple said. But above all, when working with your spouse, it’s vital to have mutual respect for one another and the ability to set clear, concise boundaries, the couple explained. “Issues will come up,” Sam O’Krent said. “It’s different from a marriage because there are other people involved as well and business repercussions. When making business decisions, [you have to focus on] what’s best for the business.”