As a “solo” solopreneur, you might find those around you don’t always understand what you’re doing and why it sometimes demands so much of your time and energy. While my family has always been extremely supportive, they don’t know first-hand the challenges and stresses of trying to do it all. How could they – except through what I tell them – and I’d rather be spending quality time with them than complaining. Still, wouldn’t doing business as a solopreneur be easier if those closest to you would know what it’s like to walk in your shoes?
Who better to ask that question than a pair of husband and wife solopreneurs? I reached out to Steve and Sherry Smith, who both operate as solopreneurs under the same roof in Lancaster, PA. Steve runs both a marketing firm focused on helping business embrace new technology in their marketing efforts and a successful restaurant consulting business. Sherry owns and operates an interior design company that she started on the west coast, now pulling many of those design influences into her work for clients here in the east. Together, they juggle the responsibilities of their independent businesses and their family.
Check out this Q&A with Sherry and Steve to find out the behind the scenes of how they got started on the road to dual solopreneurship – and get a glimpse of what it’s like to have two solopreneurs in the same house. Plus, they share some good advice about balancing home and work life that’s relevant for all of us.
My Solopreneur² Q&A with the Smiths:
Who ventured into being a solopreneur first? Whoever did it second, what inspired you to follow?
Sherry: Ever since I met Steve he had always desired to be in business for himself, but honestly I believe both of us ventured into solopreneurship around the same time. I made my mind up to launch Design Elements, Ltd. in the spring of 2006 (after months of discussing with Steve and with his encouragement) and made it official in February 2007 after leaving a full-time position at the Tahoe Tribune….just 4 weeks after they awarded me ‘Sales Rep of the Year 2006’. Not good timing for them, but I had already laid a few months of ground work for the launch of Design Elements, Ltd. While we lived in Lake Tahoe, Ca., Steve had a few different experiences with solopreneurship, but the industry he kept coming back to was restaurant consulting.
What has been your primary motivation in being your own boss?
Sherry: Really lots of things: Passion for interior design and helping clients realize they can, with my help, create a space that reflects and enhances their lifestyle; being my own ‘boss’ and driving my own ship and all the good and bad that goes with that; also being able to create a team around me that allows me the opportunity to grow and guide accordingly.
Steve: I always have been a leader. From a young age as a competitive athlete, I seemed to naturally fit the role of team captain. In business, my mentors have been people like John Maxwell and Tony Dungy, both men of faith and excellent leaders. So this leadership has driven me to my charge which nowadays, at the age of 52, is the calling to help others succeed.
I imagine having two solopreneurs in the family allows you to share some resources; how does that help you in your independent businesses?
Sherry: I believe one of our major resources is our ability to collaborate on any type of project that each of us is working on. Because we have three businesses/brands under one roof (Restaurant Rescue Consulting, Local Mobile Apps and Design Elements, Ltd.), we are often bouncing ideas and strategies off of one another – and that ultimately benefits our clients.
Steve: I must agree with Sherry. For me, having her as a strategist is very powerful and enables me to better serve my/our clients!
Does sharing resources ever cause issues or problems? How so?
Sherry: Well…I would refer to the answer above about collaboration. Both of us have a tendency to interrupt the other with our ideas, questions, or general need for feedback. This “sense of urgency” on one person’s part isn’t always shared with the other :). It isn’t easy being married and being solopreneurs, and we do struggle with when to wear what “hat.” We are all in, and our efforts are 24/7, and there is sometimes a blurred line with being “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” and being solopreneurs. We value each other’s skill set and experience and know that we have a synergy together that does help our clients.
What would you say challenges you most about having two solopreneurs in the family?
Sherry: In addition to knowing when to be “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” and when to be solopreneurs, I would have to say the challenge of establishing quality family time with our daughter. I need to be better at telling myself to stop working and to focus on family. That is extremely hard for me because there is always a list of “to do” items that continually grows an evolves.
Steve: For me I’m not very patient sometimes and tend to want “my answers” immediately. So respecting each others space and time is paramount.
What would you say are the biggest benefits of having two solopreneurs in the family?
Steve: Amen… time for our daughter!
Do you find it difficult not to get overly involved in each other’s businesses? How do you draw the line and not step on each other’s toes?
Sherry: No, not difficult. I think Steve does his thing well with Restaurant Rescue Consulting, and I do my thing well with Design Elements, Ltd. We respect each other’s expertise in these distinctive industries and usually use each other as sounding boards on any variety of issues relating to leadership, coaching, marketing, sales within our respective projects.
Steve: Yep…what she said!
If you could give just one piece of advice to couples who are thinking about running two independent solo-businesses, what would it be?
Sherry: Know each other’s goals and plans for achieving success in each other’s respective businesses, and then be flexible, because plans never go exactly like they are on paper. Ideally, give each other more grace, patience and understanding….on both sides of the track – in your marriage and in your business.
Steve: Respect and patience!
Anything else you think is important to share?
Steve: Legacy..What can we give? Who can we serve? How can we teach our daughter? This is what matters most!
About Sherry Smith
Sherry owns and operates Design Elements, Ltd., a Lancaster, PA-based interior decorating/design, home staging & redesign company focused on creating solutions to fit clients’ unique styles and preferences. She originally started her business in beautiful Lake Tahoe, CA, and has brought that West Coast influence to Central PA. From color consultations to complete remodels, Sherry has experience with space planning, style identification, furniture and fabric recommendations, lighting and fixtures selections, and case goods and accessory options for homes and businesses.
About Steve Smith
Steve is a founding partner of Local-Mobile-Social Marketing, a Lancaster PA firm that helps businesses understand how to market themselves effectively with new technology in this new world. He also runs a successful consulting business, Restaurant Rescue Consulting. Over the past 30 years, he has opened and operated more than a dozen start ups in the hospitality industry. His experience includes working with recognizable brands including Intrawest, Vail Resorts, and TGIFridays. His laser focus on aligning marketing strategy with business goals and objectives has enabled him to deliver his clients results that make a stronger bottom line.
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