Is one house big enough for two separate businesses? "Absolutely!" agree John and Linda Ruffin, who run independent companies from adjoining offices in their Santa Barbara, California, home.
John Ruffin started The Synergy Group, a management consulting and training firm, 12 years ago. Four years later, buoyed by his own success and convinced of Linda's potential, he encouraged his future wife to start her executive search firm, Opportunities Plus. While admitting their arrangement may not work for everyone, the Ruffins agree on its potential benefits to both partners and businesses.
"We are on each other's board of directors," says John. "As a couple, we're close, but we have enough distance to contribute to each other's strategic thinking. We bring different experiences and judgments to the table. I love to bat ideas back and forth with Linda. When she's totally caught up in her own business and we don't have time to do that, I really miss her input."
What makes the Ruffins (and other entrepreneurs like them) successful in their relationship as well as their individual businesses?
- Having their own businesses fits their personalities. "We're very compatible but independent people," says Linda. "As compatible as we are, we'd do fine in one business together. But as independent as we are, we like the autonomy of having our own thing."
- They are each other's greatest cheerleaders."When Linda was working for someone else, I saw capabilities in her she wasn't acknowledging. I knew she could take something she was already doing and do it for herself," says John.
- They aren't competitive. "We've each been very successful and have supported each other every step of the way," Linda says. "If we were competitive and trying to outdo each other, that could be a real trap."
- They seek opportunities to build each other's business. "While our companies are different, there is some overlap," says John. "We look for ways to bring business to the other person." Some of Linda's clients have become John's as well, and vice versa. Says Linda, "Supporting each other contributes to the growth of both companies."
Lynn Colwell is a life coach and writer in the Seattle area.