A Successful Spousal Real Estate Team

Dear Coach:

I am thinking about having my spouse join me in my Real Estate business. She would help me as my administrative and marketing assistant. What is your experience with couples working together?

To help answer this question, I asked Marco and Loren Kronen to share their experience as a successful husband/wife Real Estate team in Seattle.

How did you decide to work together in your Real estate business?
Loren – We were both working in real estate when we met and continued working separately for some time. We realized that together we could make more money for ourselves than we could working separately. We also felt like our personalities and skill sets were very different and therefore splitting the work tasks would be an easy and obvious division and would balance nicely.
Marco – I was at a point where my business was growing and I needed help. Instead of hiring another person, who I didn’t know and trust, it made sense to me to see if Loren and I could work together. I saw other agents who hired assistants not have any luck, and at least with my wife I knew I had trust, and the rest of the logistics we could figure out. Trust and competence are the biggest challenges I feel in finding a business partner or hiring staff.

Is Loren a licensed broker? How did you make that decision?
Loren – No, I am not licensed. Since I am more the organized, multi-tasking and paperwork person, it made more sense for me to remain in the “behind the scenes” role and for Marco to do the client work. I was an assistant to another agent before we worked together so we decided to keep me in that role as it was the best use of my skills. Currently, we are considering me getting licensed but it still comes down to knowing what is the best use of my time and skills. The only thing leaning towards becoming licensed is the ability to help with buyer showings should the need arise.
Marco – Not having Loren licensed helps keep our roles defined and keeps me focused on selling and working with clients and her focused on supporting my efforts. If Loren got her license I could see opportunities for duplicated efforts in the field.

How do you keep your work and personal lives separate?
Loren – This is the challenge as this business is 24 hours/7 days a week so it is something we struggle with. But we made a boundary that it is okay to say to the other person “we are at home, so let’s not talk about work” if the other brings it up. Also we have date nights once a month with no phones and no work talk.
Marco – This is a tough one that takes practice. We do try a “no talk about work after hours” policy, and it’s ok to remind each other of this. Also I try and keep “business hours” with our clients and set the expectations that I will not return calls or email after hours unless its something urgent. That helps me not have to be working in the evenings or weekends that we take off. Also, we delegate coverage to colleagues at the office when we go on vacation, so that we don’t have to do any work while away. Well, at least very little, work 🙂

What are some of the challenges you have encountered working with your partner?
Loren – There are times when my feelings get hurt as it can be hard not to take criticisms personally. It can be awkward telling the other person that they made a mistake or need to change the way they do something. It can feel like a more personal attack than if a neutral boss said the same thing.
Marco – The biggest challenge I find is having all our income tied to one source. During the recession it was very challenging and we had some really tough times to battle through since our income was solely dependent on real estate. Also because of this budgeting is a challenge. With the high’s and low’s of income throughout the year it’s easy to spend too much when we have big months and not save enough for lean times. To help with this we finally broke down and leaned on our CPA and hired a bookkeeper tasked with setting us up with a budget. We felt we needed to have a third party help set up our budget since our money management styles are totally different.

What are some of the benefits of working with your partner?
Loren – Freedom. We are able to take time off mid-week or take long vacations as we have the freedom to determine our schedule. This is really liberating! We also feel like all of our efforts with work truly are to benefit our life together and it makes us work harder knowing that we will enjoy the fruits of our labor directly and together.
Marco – Perfectly spoken, we have a lot of freedom and that is so valuable to be able to help family and friends when they need us.

Any other advice for people thinking of working with their partner?
Loren – Really think it through and think about how your personalities would mesh in terms of who will lead/take charge and how work will be divided and how that will all play out as working together and having that fail wouldn’t be worth losing your relationship over.
Marco – I also feel, that setting goals together is important and establishing why you are doing what you are doing together is important. Both partners need to be on the same page with what is the goal, why it’s our goal, and how we achieve that goal. We hear it all the time and it gets redundant, but have a business plan (even a simple one), and having clear roles identified is critical. Otherwise how do you know who is responsible for what. Clear responsibilities help determine who is on the hook to buy dinner and drinks as an apology 🙂

Thanks, Marco and Loren, for sharing your valuable experience and wisdom about what it takes to work with a partner or spouse. Patience, understanding, clear boundaries and responsibilities, and lots of love and forgiveness seem to be a recipe for success.