Golden Rules Of Working With Your Other Half |
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Have you ever considered working with your nearest and dearest? The prospect of spending every waking hour together may be a daunting one, but these successful husband-and-wife teams prove that love, life and business can exist in harmony. We caught up with three successful entrepreneur couples – to find out the secrets behind their success…

Louise & Paul Parker, Co-Founders of Louise Parker

Weight loss expert and Founder of her eponymous company, Louise Parker, has transformed the lives – and bodies – of countless clients; Louise is firmly etched into the little black books of endless A-listers, high society and the business elite who want quick and instant fitness results. We spoke to her to find out how she started her celebrated wellness brand with her husband Paul…

Who started the business?

I devised the Louise Parker Method over 15 years ago, as a solution to permanent weight loss whilst working as a chubby personal trainer, trapped in the cycle of trend dieting. At my wits end, I sat on my bed one day and devised a plan that cut through the fads and would deliver my clients to their best bodies, in the sanest, safest way possible. When I had my first daughter ten years ago, I took a few months off, but the phone kept ringing. I formally set up the company when Sophie was a few months old, going from a one-man band to very slowing growing my team. That took time and a lot of mistakes. I had to learn to delegate and let go, or I’d never get to bed. I was working in the home office then until 3am some nights, doing a night feed and I was utterly exhausted but refusing to turn away our growing waiting list. Something had to give. I couldn’t run it on my own and it was time to get a CEO in. The business couldn't afford it, and I knew with Paul’s systematic, logical mind that we could turn it into something really special – no one was offering our services in this way and I had blind faith that if we cracked on together, the company would succeed. 

What is it like working with your other half?

It’s the biggest blessing at times, but it comes with lots of challenges. The first year was very tough, but we rode the wave and learnt each lesson once and moved on, making the business stronger, our working relationship stronger and our marriage, too. I think the biggest blessing in running a family company is that we share the same goals and, obviously as a husband-and-wife team, the trust is ever present. You know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and can talk really frankly about that – so there’s no sugar coating when something doesn't get done on time as there may be with an employee. Now that’s good for business but hard on a relationship. There are many times we have to constructively criticise one another – and that takes a really strong relationship to bear that. But ultimately we want each other to be happy and fulfilled in our separate roles in the company and so we have learnt to harness our strengths into different areas. 

What is the secret to making it work?

Know it is going to be challenging, and I mean, really, really challenging. The reality is, it’s really tough 10% of the time, but that’s enough to break some couples. If you know that from the start, you can manage expectations and when things are tough, you know it's normal. It’s essential you are on the same page and share the same vision – for the team, the company, yourselves and the family. If you keep your eye firmly on your values, you can ride any wave. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it can be done. We focus on different jobs and there are weeks our paths don’t even really cross and rare days that we are in each other’s pockets, especially if we are working on a something new that requires both of us. It’s best when your roles are very clearly defined and it’s essential you check in and hold yourself accountable to each other on a weekly basis. 

Do you have any rules about working together?

We try to never undermine each other at work. Disagree, yes – but never undermine a decision or action that the other person has made. Even if we beg to differ and Paul’s made a call on something, he has my support. If something doesn't go to plan, never blame one another – you accept it and get to work fixing it as quickly as possible. Discuss it rationally, learn from it and leave it behind you. You have to make mistakes – and you’re both going to make them. Learn from one another’s together and just crack on. 

What are you individual roles?

We’re still a growing business and everyone on the team has roles that go beyond the call of duty. But crudely put, Paul runs the operational side and I look after the method – our service and values – and communication of that internally and externally. New developments and projects we share – and there is always something going on. We’re starting a big project this week – and naturally we both just know who will do what – I’ll do the creating and he’ll get it operationally working. We’re both in charge of the finance – it’s important you both know what is going on and when you can afford to take a risk and when you need to be more prudent. Paul’s turned the company into a scalable one, whilst improving client experience – that takes very precise systems, recruitment and together we create and maintain a culture in which I hope it’s a pleasure to be part of.

Do you take your work home with you?

Absolutely. We both go to either of our clinics each day, but at the end of the day, there’s always something to chat through. Sometimes it’s more formal work but for the most part, it’s chatting things over and supporting one other. We spend time with the children between school and bedtime and then once they’re down, we’ve often got work to do.

Do you work the same hours?

More or less, although Paul can work until late if he has to whereas I can never work past 9pm. I have to wind down and have a calming bedtime routine. It’s just how I’m wired – but I’ll work weekends if I get behind or sacrifice other time. 

What’s an average morning routine like for the two of you?

We’re up early – between 5am and 6am. We like a long morning at home with the children who are also early risers, before heading off at 8am. We drink tea, watch the news, perhaps a bit of Modern Family and then potter and make a proper breakfast – always at the table as a family. It’s the only guaranteed time we are all together. We work out later in the day as this time is so precious to us. Then it’s all the usual getting bits ready for school and Paul heads off with the dog. I jump on the phone or walk into work 30 minutes away in Chelsea.

And what about the evening?

They vary so much. We have young children so weeknights could be nit check and homework or a glamorous event together – not much of the later mind you. Once the girls are in bed, Paul cooks whilst I potter and bath and then we’ll eat, discuss our day and just hangout until bedtime – which is rarely late. Weekends are with family, friends or we eat out with the children.

How do you deal with disagreements at work?

You just have to let them go. We talk everything through and you just have to agree to get to a point where you are both happy and agree and move on. It’s not always easy but the main thing is never to let anything bubble away into a resentment.

How do you juggle the business with having children?

I’m aware there is much I have missed out on and time with my children, friends and family that I will never get back. I do the best I can and have a strong relationship with my children, but the time is condensed. That’s always hard. My nanny has been with me from day one. For the first year I barely covered her wages. I remember sitting down and seeing my first year’s accounts and crying in a heap. I see how many businesses fail in the first year – it’s especially hard for women with children. It’s bloody hard, I won't lie. You do the best you can. There are things I miss and don’t give myself a hard time over, like school runs – but I’m there for all the important things and I feel we have a good five or six hours together most days, which I’m lucky to be able to do. They’re extremely proud and are all going through a stage of saying that they want to work for the business one day.

Has there ever been a time were the business has put a strain on your relationship?

Absolutely – the stress can really take its toll and you have to really remember that first and foremost you are husband and wife. There have been challenging times, but as clichéd as it sounds, they've brought us closer. Our lives are so intertwined in every way. I’m really proud that we have built our company together, our happy little family and he still remains the first person I want to tell anything to. I’m really proud of our marriage.

What are your golden rules for making it work?

Define your roles, but don’t put yourself in boxes – you have to stay connected to what your husband or wife is doing. It’s ultimately a shared responsibility. Give one another space when they need it. Learn to read the signs when it’s just not a good time to bring up work, like when they’re watching the Lions or brushing their teeth. Respect the decisions that either of you feel strongly about, and have faith to run with them, even if you are unconvinced. They usually work and make the company better. If they don’t, learn the lesson and move on. Remember that you are a unit and there is no room for a ‘told you so’ attitude. You have to be prepared to take risks and if one of you has a really strong instinct, go with it. I make most of my decisions on instinct, Paul on careful analysis – most couples will probably fall into this category and you learn to work in the middle. That’s the sweet spot.



Joel & Molly Jeffrey, Co-Founders of Desmond & Dempsey

Frustrated by the lack of stylish designer sleepwear available on the market, Joel and Molly Jeffery decided to put their brains together to launch a luxury pyjama brand. We spoke to Molly Dempsey to get the lowdown on how their successful business took off the ground…

Why did you decide to start a business together?

We started the business together with Joel’s brother, Christian. Our idea came from a genuine need for the product but then it took us about a year to figure out how to make a pair of pyjamas. I quit my job first after our first Christmas trading. Joel came second when we were accepted into an incubator to help grow our business. Joel was always very entrepreneurial, while I just wanted a pair of cool cotton pyjamas. I don’t know that we purposely set out to “start a business” together. After not being able to find cotton pyjamas that were as beautiful as the silk on the market, or as comfortable as Joel’s shirt, we saw a gap in the market and went for it. Joel got his shirts back and I got my pyjamas!

What is it like working with your other half?

The honest truth is that I don’t think we could do it if we weren’t together. We are both so consumed by Desmond & Dempsey and everything to do with the business it makes it easy. When the other needs to work late, you’re not mad because you know it’s for a good reason. We’ve had to cancel and miss out on holidays and parties and different events because we couldn’t leave the studio – it sucks, but at least we have the same passion and are willing to make the scarifies together.
Running a business together has also opened up so many doors for us and given us amazing experiences that we otherwise would not have had, so in that sense we are very lucky.

What is the secret to making it work?

We have become very good at knowing when the other needs to take a break. We know what has happened in their day, so when we get home we can take turns in getting other things organised or planning something special to cheer the other up.

Do you have any rules about working together?

We tried having “rules” about separating work and home but it just doesn’t work, and ends up causing hiccups, so we don’t have major rules as such. Enjoy the journey, don’t separate work from home if it doesn’t work for you, pay attention to when one another needs a break and organise something nice.

Do you take your work home with you?

Yes, it’s hard not to when you are a young business and excited by every opportunity and don’t want to miss out on amazing adventures.

Do you work the same hours?

I like to be up early and like to do most of my strategic planning before getting into the studio while Joel is a night owl and if something needs to be done will be up all night until it is finished.

How do you deal with disagreements at work?

Lots of walks. When we started D&D I was reading Steve Jobs’ autobiography and he would always go for a walk at times of stress so we started to do the same. It works a treat!. 

What would you do differently if you could do it all again?

We are still a very young business so it’s hard to say at this stage. I do think you learn from mistakes.

Do you think you work harder because you work together?

We are both totally obsessed and probably spend far too much time on it. We both worked for small companies before D&D though, so I think we always worked hard and took on a lot of responsibility. I think the main difference is that this is work that you are so excited about. In another career, I’m not sure either of us would love a customer service role, whereas with D&D we are still both on the customer service email. If I could, I would spend my whole day packing up orders and chatting

Has there ever been a time where the business has put a strain on your relationship?

We got married last year (in Australia), right in the middle of a fundraiser. I went home three weeks earlier with Joel’s sisters to spend time with my family and help mum get everything organised – Joel couldn’t come out until ten days before the wedding. It was frustrating at the time, because we both wanted to be in Aus celebrating for as long as we could.

What are your three golden rules for making it work?

I think they are different for everyone but: 

  • Don’t try to separate work and home.

  • Know when the other needs a break and organise something fun or relaxing.

  • ENJOY it. We do lots of things that are for “work” but because you’re also there as a couple it makes it very enjoyable.



James Knappett & Sandia Chang, Owners of Bubbledogs and Kitchen Table

Head chef James Knappett and his wife Sandia Chang have collectively worked at some of the best restaurants in the world, including The Ledbury in Notting Hill, Noma in Copenhagen, Roganic in Marylebone and Per Se in Manhattan – where they originally met. The dynamic husband-and-wife duo now owns Bubbledogs, the trendy champagne and hot dog restaurant in Fitzrovia,  as well as Michelin-starred Kitchen Table. Here’s how they cracked their way into London's illustrious restaurant scene...

Who started the business?

We started it together. When James and I met, one of our common goals in life was to open our own restaurant. We’ve always shared a similar philosophy in food, wine, service, work ethics and standards. We both trained under chef Thomas Keller and have been working together ever since, so it is easy to understand where each other comes from.

What is it like working with your other half?

Extremely hard. On the positive side, we know we will always tell each other the truth and always want to see the other half do better. But at the same time, it is always hard to hear the truth and not take it personally and to have someone constantly challenging you. 

What is the secret to making it work?

Perseverance and knowing that without each other we wouldn’t be where we are today. Also, having our dog Paxo in our lives is wonderful as it allows us to talk about something that’s unrelated to work and also forces us to spend time out with him away from the restaurant.

What are your individual roles?

James looks after Kitchen Table and only works there, while I look after all of Bubbledogs, including the kitchen and the menu. I also look after the front of house for Bubbledogs and Kitchen Table, as well as lots of admin, PR and marketing. I am the wine buyer for both restaurants and work dinner service in the front of house in Kitchen Table in the evenings. I am also James’ PA.

Do you take your work home with you?

We try not to but most of the time we have to because it’s the only time we have alone with each other that we can discuss things.

Do you work the same hours?

Pretty much. James gets in at 9am and I get in at 10am. We usually finish around the same time 11:30-12:30am. But we both have Sunday and Mondays off.

How do you switch off?

We usually try and watch an episode of a TV show together. At the moment we are watching old episodes of American Top Chef.

How do you deal with disagreements at work?

It depends on the degree of disagreements. Most of the time we will just tell each other then and there. We’ve learned not to hold any disagreements in from each other because it just makes it worse. We kind of have our own boundaries of where we can’t really interfere and when we do, it is because it’s really necessary. For example, James knows that I would only say something about Kitchen Table if it was really important to me and vice versa.

Business owners often say their brand is their baby…

Our business is definitely our baby. People always ask why we don’t have children and our reply is that our 20 or so staff members are like our children; they are our biggest headaches and also our greatest joys when we watch them succeed. We believe that we share the same responsibilities in that we both just do what is needed whenever it is needed. We never have the attitude, ‘This is not my job'. I have put on my chef’s jacket to cook when it’s needed in both Bubbledogs and Kitchen Table. We are each other’s crutches. When we are weak in areas, the other, no matter what, will always be there to support.

Has there ever been a time were the business has put a strain on your relationship?

Almost every day with different levels of strains, but we wouldn’t want to be working with anyone else.

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