Working with your partner is not supposed to be the done thing. It’s bound to ultimately end in both personal and professional disaster, right? This week, to tie in with Valentines Day, we’re profiling three businesses who prove that theory wrong. For these couples, mixing business with romance is a match made in heaven.
Today we join David and Suzie Wardell. Partners since 2010 and married in 2012, they have two daughters aged 6 and 4. They set up Evoke Telecom, offering business telephone systems and connectivity services in the Leicestershire area, in 2013
How did you meet?
David: We were both senior managers at our respective employers. My large corporate bought Susie’s company. I was tasked with integrating all of the sales teams, which required me to work with Susie as one of the sales leads. Our relationship took off following a heated disagreement at a management meeting. The glass of wine to ‘make up’ helped us to get to know each other and the rest, as they say, is history.
Susie: Our employer was disapproving of intercompany relationships, so we had to keep our romance under wraps. We formally announced ourselves following our wedding!
How did you come to start a business together?
David: Our employer was restructuring whilst Susie was on maternity leave with our second daughter. I had tired of the hamster wheel and decided that this was the time to start our own business. The first thing we did was jump on a plane to the Canary Islands for 6 weeks whilst we set the business website and processes up.
Susie: Following my maternity leave I resigned and joined David to get our fledgling company up and running. We had no investors or bank loans – totally self-funded with just an empty pad and a mobile telephone on day one.
How do you divide each other’s roles and responsibilities?
David: In simple terms – Susie drives Sales and Marketing and I look after finance and operations. In reality, we are wonderfully cross-functional except for HR where Susie makes sure that I focus more on my work and less on her!
How has the business grown in your time together? Have there been any particular milestones?
David: We have enjoyed 80% – 85% YOY growth over the last 4 years. Susie had to leave in 2015 to earn an external salary whilst I grew the business to a level such that we could afford to live without the need for external income. Susie came back January 2017 and we have been flying ever since.
Susie: It was the perfect storm, in that once we had been trading for more than three years the market suddenly opened up and accepted us as a serious going concern. We are now able to sit at tables in much larger organisations and quote for substantial projects.
How do you separate your professional and personal lives? Do you ever feel that you get the balance wrong?
Susie: Until we got our own offices we always struggled to shut the back-bedroom office door. However, since moving we are extremely good at managing our Monday to Friday hours. We chose an office that sits on the route between our home and our daughter’s school. This means that most days we can take and collect our girls together – which we think is the greatest gift of all.
David: We are our own bosses and so can determine our own hours. We have an amazing support team so are able to let go when we need to even when we go away for family holidays. In fairness, Susie is much better than me at switching off, so she polices me if I am putting too much time and thought into Evoke.
How do the highs and lows of business impact on your personal life?
Susie: We are extremely close as a couple and are pretty intuitive, supportive and understanding. When things go well we share the excitement. When things go less well we share the learnings. Never have we ever blamed the other for a negative outcome.
David: I would be lying if I said we do not worry when things are not going how we would wish, but we seem to be very good at spinning to the positive and moving forwards again.