Penny Spencer is a mum of two and a leader in the Australian travel industry having built her company from scratch.
How did she break the glass ceiling and become a role model, mentor and successful business woman while balancing her home life with her husband and two children?
She reveals her secrets in her book ‘Love what you do and never work a day in your life: Always wear lipstick – especially red’ which details her experience along with invaluable advice for anyone in business, looking to start their own business or has an established business, regardless of the industry.
“I wrote this book because I wanted to share my story to help inspire other people achieve their own career or business success," says Penny.
"Whether you’re in business already or thinking of starting a business in any industry or looking for a career path, this book offers a few kernels of insight to help people realize their own potential and know they can achieve anything they want when they put their mind to it.”
Here is an exclusive extract on Working with a Spouse from Penny's book.
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Your spouse can be your teammate, but you have to decide right away who is going to be the boss. I started the business myself.
Edwin was in quite a stressful role of project manager for constructing large houses. He was working very long hours and I was working very long hours.
As my business grew, three years into it, I realized that I needed somebody who could handle the infrastructure - IT, phones, where to put another desk, how does it get all wired up? That is not my area.
I said to my husband “We never ever see each other. We’re newlyweds.” (We got married the same year that I started the business.) “Maybe you should come into this business and help with the infrastructure and the IT.” And he agreed.
Be Clear-Cut with the Employees, too, about Who Is Boss and Who Does What
We then sat down and had a business discussion about “How would this work?” “What are the guidelines for working together?” We put together strict guidelines. Number one was that I was boss and he would have nothing to do with running the staff , but we would make the big decisions together.
The staff would also know that he was a director of the business, but they weren’t to go to him for any decisions. That’s another area that can be difficult for employees when they’re working for a husband and wife team. It’s almost like children, you get a “no” from mum, so you’ll go to dad to get a “yes.”
The other guideline is we never bring our personal life into the office. If we have an argument in the morning, we need to sort that out before we walk into the office.
That takes a lot of discipline. In 16 years, there probably was only one time when we have had to close the door in my office and sort out an issue that we had personally. But no one knew as we did it privately.
Dealing with How Outsiders See You and Your Spouse as a Team
About six or seven years ago, Edwin and I went to a meeting at the bank. The bankers focused completely on Edwin. They completely ignored me and talked to him about him about the money, what we were trying to do, how we were going to do it and the interest rates. They never even looked at me until Edwin got a moment where he could interrupt them and said, “Just so you know, Penny’s actually the boss. Not me.”
The banker looked at Edwin and said, “Oh. I assumed you were the managing director of the business.” He immediately assumed that the husband was the key person in the business.
The message here is to always ensure that you talk to people about your position as opposed to letting people just assume that you’re not the key decision maker in the business.
We are always asked, “Who’s the boss at home?” And I always turn around and say, “Well, of course Edwin’s boss at home.”
Always be transparent and clear in your roles.
How to Keep the Office in the Office and Not Bring Work Issues Home
Keeping home and office separate is not easy, but important. I have a 35-minute drive to the office. That 35-minute drive winds me down and allows me to think about what’s happened during the day. By the time I get home, I’m a lot more relaxed and able to switch into family mode.
Ensuring you talk about the business at set times and allowing for other conversation at home helps with keeping the two separate.
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Penny's book is published by Advantage and available via Amazon.