Husband-Wife Firms: The Risks and Rewards

January 25, 2001
/ Print / Reprints /
ShareMore
/ Text Size+
Lynette and Gordon Brown of Swift Serve Co. in Laguna Hills, CA have owned and operated several businesses together


Some say marriage is hard work. Others claim they’re married to their jobs. And then there are those who go one step further — married couples who run their own businesses. How do they do it? Isn’t marriage or work stressful enough without combining the two?

“My greatest challenge is switching back and forth from business mode to personal mode,” says Jim Gammill of Magnolia Heating & Cooling, Riverside, CA. “Business matters must often be addressed quickly, and sometimes I can be abrupt and insensitive. The same approach doesn’t work well in a personal relationship.”

Wife Dennise Gammill says that “leaving the job at the office” is her biggest challenge.

“We don’t think of things in terms of a business life and a married life,” she says. “It’s just our life. It all sort of blends together. We don’t have a break.”

Yet, she believes she and her contractor husband are stronger as a couple than they would have been had they pursued separate careers.

“I don’t think working together has hurt our marriage,” says Dennise Gammill. “In fact, I believe the strength of our relationship has made it possible for us to work together.”

Jim Gammill agrees.

“I work hard so that I don’t place an extra burden on Dennise,” he says. “I don’t want to disappoint her or let her down. And that’s what makes her work hard, too.”



Darryl Metz of Metz Air Control in Chino, CA, manages field personnel, while his wife, Alice, oversees the office.

The Benefits

In many respects, the reasons why married couples like working together are much the same as the reasons why people get married — someone to share your life with, someone who is there for you, someone to love.

“You always have someone who knows how you feel,” says Gordon Brown of Swift Serve Co., Laguna Hills, CA. “When times are good, you have someone to celebrate with. When times are stressful, you have someone who understands you.”

For Scott Lee, the biggest reward of running Iceberg Refrigeration in Mesquite, NV, with his wife, Bobette, is “getting to be together all the time.”

Ditto for the Gammills.

“The benefits and fulfillment of successfully meeting so many challenges with Dennise — at home and at work — are hard to relate to people who haven’t experienced this,” says Jim Gammill. “It’s the best possible arrangement for me because of my love for Dennise. Her presence and participation make me a better person.”

“The biggest reward is being a part of all aspects of Jim’s life and working together for the same goals,” says Dennise Gammill. “Being together so much, we can understand each other’s moods. Jim knows when and why I have my moods and is very supportive. Couples who work separately often can’t relate to what their partner goes through. Their moods are often a mystery and can appear random or arbitrary.”

“I don’t believe one of us would ever continue in the business without the other,” says Jim Gammill. “We’d have to make the change together if an opportunity was perceived to offer greater fulfillment.”



The Downsides

Though Lynette Brown runs Swift Serve Co. with her husband, Gordon, she says her “real calling is a masseuse.”

“I’ve got a table set up in a room in our house, but, unfortunately, I don’t have any clients. Just my family,” she says. “A lot of my desires, things that I would have liked to experience, have been put away because I’ve been so involved in Gordon’s businesses. One thing leads to another, and you get sucked in.

“Most of our business adventures have been Gordon’s choice, not mine. I would have liked to open a travel agency, pet-grooming business, or pet hotel.”

Alice Metz of Metz Air Control, Chino, CA, works alongside not only her husband, Darrel, but their two sons as well.

“Our nerves are sometimes on edge,” she says, “but we always seem to get through. My favorite saying is ‘If mom goes down, we all go down,’ because I pretty much run the office.

“I was working as a cake decorator when we bought the business 24 years ago. When times are hectic, I wish I was cake-decorating again!”

Though Kathy Puig has been successfully running the business side of Alps Air Conditioning, Orange, CA, since 1993, she sometimes thinks of doing something else.

“But then I don’t want to leave him with all the worries,” she says. “I have a need to make things OK.”

Her husband, Al, comments wryly, “She’s afraid that if she left, I’d work 24 hours a day!”

Owning his own business and making it successful have been driving forces in Al Puig’s life. “When I was in school, I’d watch vans go by with someone’s name on them,” he says. “I wanted that for myself.”

Now that he has what he wished for, he does harbor some second thoughts.

“We used to take a week off every three months — get the kids in the RV and go some place,” says Al Puig. “Now that the business is growing, we don’t even take a week a year.

“If I was to start over again, I’d keep it small and not have the ambition of growing big. I could see myself with just one truck again, and I’d probably be a lot happier.”

New employees often think contracting couples have it made.

“But I’m not getting rich,” assures Al Puig. “I’m working more than 10 hours a day, selling my soul to the business. It takes a toll on you.”



Sidebar: Dissolving the Partnership to Save the Marriage

Rosa Francisco doesn’t know how couples are able to work with the same person they live with, but “my hat’s off to them.”

A little more than two years ago, Mrs. Francisco removed herself from the day-to-day operations of Western Equipment Services in Lancaster, CA, a business she and her husband Terry purchased in 1994.

“We love each other to death,” she says. “All our friends and family are envious of our relationship. We’re a dream-come-true couple. But when it came to business, we saw things differently. We weren’t exactly fighting, but it was certainly uneasy. We are such different people at work. Terry tends to analyze way too much.

“Small problems become big, complicated problems with him. I like to find the simple solution. These differences brought on a lot of heavy stress, and marriage is already a stressful thing.”

Add children into the mix and it gets even more complicated.

“We already had one small child,” says Rosa, “and when the second one came along, I knew I wasn’t doing 100 percent either way — not professionally and not as a mom. A brand-new baby and running a business — that was too crazy.”

No argument from Mr. Francisco.

“It was very difficult working together,” he admits. “I seem to be more professional and patient with Alma (Rosa’s sister) than with my own wife.”

“In all honesty, he’s a different person at work,” says Rosa. “But then, we’re all different people at work. We put the work mask on, and when we get home, we let our hair down.”

Despite all this, Terry says he feels their marriage would be “stronger if we were to work together again.”

“My husband would love for me to come into the office,” says Mrs. Francisco. “We hate to be apart. I talk to him 10 times a day. He’d love it if he could reach me without picking up the phone.

“The only reward of running a business together that I can see is that we do everything together and go everywhere together, so at work we could be constantly together. There are times that Terry leaves home at dark and comes home at dark. I miss him dearly all day long.”



Adolph James and Vivian Flores have been in business more than 30 years.

Advice on Making it Work

Rosa Francisco doesn’t know how couples are able to work with the same person they live with, but “my hat’s off to them.”

A little more than two years ago, Mrs. Francisco removed herself from the day-to-day operations of Western Equipment Services in Lancaster, CA, a business she and her husband Terry purchased in 1994.

“We love each other to death,” she says. “All our friends and family are envious of our relationship. We’re a dream-come-true couple. But when it came to business, we saw things differently. We weren’t exactly fighting, but it was certainly uneasy. We are such different people at work. Terry tends to analyze way too much.

“Small problems become big, complicated problems with him. I like to find the simple solution. These differences brought on a lot of heavy stress, and marriage is already a stressful thing.”

Add children into the mix and it gets even more complicated.

“We already had one small child,” says Rosa, “and when the second one came along, I knew I wasn’t doing 100 percent either way — not professionally and not as a mom. A brand-new baby and running a business — that was too crazy.”

No argument from Mr. Francisco.

“It was very difficult working together,” he admits. “I seem to be more professional and patient with Alma (Rosa’s sister) than with my own wife.”

“In all honesty, he’s a different person at work,” says Rosa. “But then, we’re all different people at work. We put the work mask on, and when we get home, we let our hair down.”

Despite all this, Terry says he feels their marriage would be “stronger if we were to work together again.”

“My husband would love for me to come into the office,” says Mrs. Francisco. “We hate to be apart. I talk to him 10 times a day. He’d love it if he could reach me without picking up the phone.

“The only reward of running a business together that I can see is that we do everything together and go everywhere together, so at work we could be constantly together. There are times that Terry leaves home at dark and comes home at dark. I miss him dearly all day long.”

Publication date: 01/29/2001

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to The NEWS Magazine

You must login or register in order to post a comment.

Multimedia

Videos

Image Galleries

2014 Energy Efficiency Forum

Highlights from the 25th annual Energy Efficiency Forum in Washington, D.C.

Podcasts

NEWSMakers: Mark Satterfield

Mark Satterfield, founder and CEO of Gentle Rain Marketing Inc. and author of “The One Week Marketing Plan” talks about his book and the importance of HVAC blogging. Posted on Sept. 19.

More Podcasts

ACHRNEWS

NEWS 09-15-14 cover

2014 September 15

Check out the weekly edition of The NEWS today!

Table Of Contents Subscribe

Venting R-22

The NEWS reported that a man received prison time for venting R-22. Should EPA step up enforcement?
View Results Poll Archive

HVACR INDUSTRY STORE

plumbing-hvac.gif
2014 National Plumbing & HVAC Estimator

Every plumbing and HVAC estimator can use the cost estimates in this practical manual!

More Products

Clear Seas Research

 

Clear Seas ResearchWith access to over one million professionals and more than 60 industry-specific publications, Clear Seas Research offers relevant insights from those who know your industry best. Let us customize a market research solution that exceeds your marketing goals.

DON'T MISS A THING

Magazine image
 
Register today for complete access to ACHRNews.com. Get full access to the latest features, Extra Edition, and more.

STAY CONNECTED

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconLinkedIn i con