Family-owned businesses, some of which have been led by succeeding generations of family members, are a hallmark of Lancaster County. Lancaster is part of a very big picture. According to Business Week, two-thirds of small businesses in the United States are family owned, thus playing a major role in the country’s economy.
Breaking the statistic down further, it is estimated that one-third of such businesses are headed by a couple. While couple-owned businesses are often regarded as a new phenomenon, they are really part of the fabric of this country. Women have helped run family farms since the first settlers arrived. Mom-and-Pop stores once populated Main Street. Many a wife has contributed to her husband’s business (and vice versa) by doing the bookwork, answering phones and assuming the responsibility for a myriad of projects in order for it to succeed. Singing, acting and production duos have entertained us for decades.
Working together 21st-century style has given way to terms such as “24/7 marriages,” “co-preneurs” and “work-linked couples.” Again, Lancaster is on trend – when we formulated the idea for this feature, so many couples were suggested that we had a difficult time narrowing it down to just four.
Of course, operating a business together, working for the same company or sharing the same career have generated their fair share of studies, as well as features in newspapers and magazines. A movie relating to the subject – A Star is Born – is nominated for a slew of awards. While many assume the worst of such situations, studies show that the pros often outweigh the cons. For example, a study was conducted in cooperation with various universities nationwide in which nearly 700 men and women participated. Each participant was given a questionnaire that focused on work-family balance. Questions centered on family and job satisfaction, and the work-related support the participants receive from their respective spouses/partners. The spouses/partners in turn completed a questionnaire that related to family satisfaction and how job-related stress affects family life.
The results, which were published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, demonstrated that spouses/partners who are connected at both home and work – one-fifth of the participants worked together or shared the same career – are more understanding and supportive of each other. In fact, their levels of satisfaction were two times higher than couples who did not share the same workplace experiences or careers. Ultimately, the study supported the theory that couples who work together or in the same careers are happier at home and more productive in the workplace.
Could working with your spouse or partner be for you? Meet four Lancaster couples who are making it “work” for them.
Jonathan & Brittany Leitzel
Occupations: Jonathan is a barber; Brittany is a stylist & permanent cosmetics specialist.
Name of the businesses you own: The Black Comb and The Pink Lady/ Pink Lady Permanent
How did you meet? We actually met when we were in high school at a church event, but we reconnected later in life through social media.
How many years have you been married? Any children? We’ve been married for six years, and our daughter, Mia, is 2 years old.
What’s it like to work in the same profession? It’s so great to have someone understand exactly what kind of stressors you may deal with on a daily basis. We’re able to decompress in the same way at the end of the day, and I think we have a different level of patience and understanding when one of us has had a particularly difficult day.
What are the challenges of working in the same profession as your spouse? Honestly, none that we can think of. It really is great knowing that they’re right around the corner if you need them or need to tell them something. Plus, we don’t work right next to one another, so we still have lots to catch up on at the end of the day.
What are the benefits of working together? Same as stated above. Plus, who wouldn’t want to work with their best friend? We also get the opportunity to become familiar with one another’s clients and coworkers and sometimes even get to participate in the same continuing education classes. Overall, our shop has a really good time together. I think we’ve been able to facilitate a relaxing and fun environment where we all actually enjoy coming to work.
How do you separate personal life from professional life? I think having our daughter helps with this. When we’re not in our shop, we’re focused on her and doing fun things together as a family. We also make it a point to travel when possible, explore new cities and visit friends and family, which is a great way to reconnect and get a fresh perspective.
Any advice for couples who plan to work together or currently work together or in the same field? Even though we’re working in the same business, we have completely different focuses while we’re there. We’re able to learn so much from one another about different techniques and services. Regardless of what field a couple is in, I think it would be helpful if each person has a different expertise or specialty. That way each person feels like they’re contributing in an equal and unique way.
Dorothy Dulo & Roger Godfrey
Occupations: Dorothy is a nurse; Both are social entrepreneurs.
Name of the businesses you own: Rafiki Shoppe and the Rafiki Africa Foundation (nonprofit)
How did you meet? We met in college. We both attended a college in Southern California as foreign students. A friendship that started there as students, going through the same challenges of adapting to American life, ended up in a relationship and forever happily married.
How many years have you been married? Any children? We’ve been married for 13-and-a-half years. We do not have any children.
What’s it like to work together on a daily basis? Working together has been great. We have really come to know each other and grow closer. We come from different cultures and live in a different culture. So, we are always learning about each other. We have learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We use that to our advantage. We each focus on our strengths and support each other. Roger is very outgoing and a social butterfly. I (Dorothy) am more of an introvert. I have learned a lot from him as he takes lead in customer service, sales and initiating new relationships. We compare notes and give each other feedback.
What are the challenges of working on a daily basis with your spouse? Our biggest challenge is when we both are having a rough day. At times you don’t want your spouse to see you in your most vulnerable point. We then look at each other and immediately know we are having a rough day. So, it turns into a strength – we talk about what each one of us is feeling or dealing with. We then find ways to support each other. Most of the time it ends in a big laugh, prayer time or a joke.
It’s also challenging to be intentional about having personal time. If we don’t intentionally schedule time for ourselves, we don’t get quality personal time. We are still constantly working on this one.
What are the benefits of working on a daily basis with your spouse? You get to know your spouse really well. We are both forever grateful for this. The opportunity to always have your best friend and the person you trust the most help you make business decisions is amazing and so empowering. We also have the advantage of seeing each other’s world as much as possible daily. You don’t have to wait for catch-up time. And, most important to us is that we get to model this to the children and youths we serve in Kenya through Rafiki Africa Foundation.
How do you separate your professional life from your personal life? It’s hard. We always have the temptations to talk about work and business. We try to schedule private times away from the areas of business and our nonprofit work. We also try to spend time with other couples and do church and group activities. This helps us to connect with other people and forget about our work.
Any advice for other couples who plan to work together or currently work together? It’s definitely a blessing, but it may not work for everyone. If you have this option, do it. Be intentional and open with each other from day one. If you realize that it’s not working out, don’t push it. Make the change in the area that is not working as soon as possible. Your marriage takes priority over business and work.
Susanne Scott, MD, MPH & Thomas Scott, MD, MBA
Occupations: Both are physicians at Penn State Health’s new Lime Spring Outpatient Center on Noll Drive.
How did you meet? We met during our residencies at Lancaster General Hospital. Tom went to medical school at Jefferson in Philadelphia, and I (Susanne) went to Duke in North Carolina. The residency program at LGH lured us to Lancaster and since then, we’ve grown new roots here as part of Penn State Health.
How many years have you been married? Any children? We married in September 2001, just after 9/11. We have four children: Sarah, William, Stephen and Maria.
What’s it like to work in the same profession? We started our relationship working together and we still work together, so there is a natural fluidity between our professional and personal lives.
What are the challenges of working on a daily basis with your spouse? What are the challenges of working in the same profession? Medicine can be very demanding of one’s time and energy; that is definitely a challenge with both of us working in a demanding field. We try to be proactive in planning our schedules both at home and at work.
What are the benefits of working on a daily basis with your spouse? What are the benefits of working in the same profession? Because we are family physicians, there is an inherent benefit to caring for families as a family right here where we live. We share many patients and take care of many families collectively – when one of us is not available, the other usually is. It is a pleasure to be able to provide that kind of care, and it’s something that has only been enhanced for us and our patients with our move from Oyster Point to the new Lime Spring facility.
How do you separate your professional life from your personal life? As active members of the community in which we work, it is difficult at times to create a separation between one’s personal and professional lives, but we feel privileged and honored that the people we see in our day-to-day lives trust us with their medical care.
Any advice for other couples who plan to work together or in the same field? Communication, flexibility and commitment to the same set of values is key.
Elisabeth Weaver & Casey Spacht
Occupations: Elisabeth is the co-owner/farmer/operator of Lancaster Farmacy. Casey, who co-owns Lancaster Farmacy, is also the executive director at Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative.
How did you meet? Lancaster’s Punk Rock Flea Market at the Chameleon Club.
How many years have you been together? Any children? Nine years. We are the parents of 6-year-old Quehanna Spacht Weaver.
What’s it like to work together on a daily basis? It is complimentary because Casey is more on the marketing end, while I (Elisabeth) am more on the ground running the farm. We can bounce ideas off each other about what went on in our days. We can offer unique perspectives for the same profession. We positively critique each other’s ideas and work because we share common goals and have respect for one another. We don’t step on one another’s toes because we take turns at who is the lead on different tasks, and we value and respect each other’s gifts that we bring to the table.
What are the challenges of working together on a daily basis? Sometimes the biggest challenge is knowing when to turn work off because the work is never done. In the profession of farming, there are many variable conditions that are out of our control that make us abandon our agendas for our days. This can mean longer work days that ultimately take away from the down time we need to rejuvenate and precious family time. There is a lot of pressure in the day to meet deadlines, and we each have to manage the variables that affect us in our different workplaces. Casey has to oversee the customer end from the office, and I have to oversee how the product will be harvested and packed on the farm to be ready for the scheduled pickup. There are a lot of logistics and planning that go into making the system work, so the pressure is on both of us but from different ends as producer and supplier. In the end, communication is the backbone to making things run smoothly, so we are thankful for being able to be a call or text away.
What are the benefits of working together on a daily basis? We can always have a good laugh at the end of the day! We get to sit together at the end of the day and express a shared gratitude for what we do. We get to work as a team to give back to our community, but also the community of plants, fungi and animals. It’s nice to have your partner in life and business also be your biggest cheerleader. We get to grow each year in our relationship and business by choosing what works for us and what doesn’t. We are proud of what one another does and enjoy sharing stories of what we have learned from our past and the present and best of all, sharing our dreams for the future.
How do you separate your professional life from your personal life? We don’t. We have adapted to live through it. We try to live a life that doesn’t separate everything but a life of integration.
Sometimes people make a distinct separation between their job and their life, but if you love what you do, then your job is integrated into a whole. On our first date together, Casey had to make at least 50 calls to farmers who were waiting by their phones for their orders, and I enjoyed jumping right into the role of making the calls while he drove because we get that the work needs to be done because people are relying on the cooperative for their livelihood.
Many years later and now with a young child, we do make it a point to put our phones down and have meal time together even if one of us has to go back to work. We will often trade cooking depending on who has to work late. Becoming parents has taught us that we have to find balance because we can’t both do the 14-hour days that we used to.
Any advice for other couples who are contemplating working together? Take getaways to unplug as a couple and/or family. We rely so much on technology and are so bound to our phones and computers that it really makes a difference to not be around them. When we take trips, we often don’t have access to cell or Internet service, which really is a blessing for getting back to what matters.
In your workplace, highlight one another’s strengths and let each other take the lead in what each does best. Learn how to be a teacher but also a student. Practice listening and learn to ask more questions before jumping into a job and then realizing you weren’t on the same page. Be patient and stay loving when the work gets tough. Be open to feedback. Laugh more!