Starting a business with your spouse is tough, but it can be totally worth it if both parties give it their 101%. Take it from Amutha Saravanan, who founded the Da Vinci Group with her husband Sara six years ago.
My husband Sara and I are partners in life and business. We started off as friends 12 years ago, and eventually became lovers. Deciding to run a business together just seemed like the natural thing to do. However, the ride that ensued really called for a healthy appetite for discomfort.
In the six years that we’ve been running Da Vinci Group, I've had mixed feedback from others on starting a business with my spouse. It ranges from “you are nuts” to “kudos to you, I would never do that”.
It hasn’t been easy, but from the last 6 years of running a successful education business, there are some key takeaways that make this relationship work.
Sara has always been the visionary and I am more of the doer - it took some time to acknowledge and accept these strengths of ours. Sara dreams, I ensure excellence.
In the initial days, we both wanted to be replicas of each other and as a result, realised that we would sooner run each other to the ground than to lift each other up. Now we both take care of different pillars of the business and have different roles that are more suited to our personalities, characters and strengths. Sara is the CEO and I am the COO.
I really believe that there is no such thing as personal life and professional life. We have one life and as much as we want to compartmentalise different segments, I feel like it is more detrimental to the brain that beneficial.
Take it from the one who has a background in Clinical Neuropsychology: the brain operates much more effectively as a whole than when cognitive functions (effort) are used to consciously segment our thoughts. Sara and I dance in our responsibilities as bosses, peers, parents, lovers, friends, etc. by focusing on quality rather than quantity and then learning how not to get frustrated with each other when the lines defining our roles cross.
We've gotten better at focusing on the here and now to ensure quality experiences for us in our roles.
There are some days when we feel like just letting that petty argument get the better of us to run its course as a cold war. As much as the temptation is there, it is more productive to snap out of it and just put it out here in words.
It might not come out right the first few times, it gets better with practice and it is better out than keeping it in because festering thoughts are really up to no good. Plus, there's a business to run and people who are counting on us to deliver.
The more we communicate with each other, the better our overall communication skills become, which are real assets in the business arena. At the crux of communication is the willingness to give up our ego and pride and be vulnerable with each other. This is not easy, especially between husband and wife (theoretically it should be, but it is not). However, it is absolutely necessary for partners working together.
This isn't a path for the faint-hearted. There have been many times Sara and I could have called it quits for both the business and us in a relationship.
The one thing that has kept us together is our commitment to each other and the commitment to our purpose, which is to transform education the world over because there are children dependent on us for a brighter future. This purpose created by us has become so strong that we've learnt to put our egos aside and really commit to contributing to others.
At the end of the day, whether things go according to plan or, more often than not, don't, there will be just one thing to lean on: love. Love for ourselves as the brave souls who are going on this path, love for each other as the only comrade who knows what the other is going through, love for the world because without it, why would we be doing what we are doing?
It took a lot of personal growth and growing up to realise this. It still is a discovery process. However, with these guiding principles, I feel that the foundation is strong and set for entrepreneur spouses to move forward in the same direction and make magic through their work. I know we are.
We run a cutting-edge education and training services company called Da Vinci Group that is set to create the pedagogy of the future using brain science.
We have 2 main pillars in the business — Da Vinci Education that delivers workshops using our trademarked programmes and licenses our programmes to schools as well as a product arm (KlayKit) that has our programmes in a box for consumers to experience in their homes.
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