The pressures that impact couples can be magnified when they work in the same environment. But their relationships can also be strengthened.
For Vanita and Neal Kumar, owners of Postal Connections near Route 7 and Belmont Ridge Drive in Lansdowne, working together makes them better appreciate each other’s capabilities. Vanita runs the business full-time, while Neal, an accountant, works part-time on the books and financial matters in addition to his full-time corporate job.
“It works well for us,” said Neal. “Vanita is great at organization and marketing and running the business. I have the finance background. We play to our strengths and appreciate what each other does.”
Accurate statistics on the number of spouses running businesses are difficult to find. An older survey from the National Federation of Independent Businesses estimated that there were 1.2 million husband-and-wife teams operating companies across the nation. But experts say that number is likely much larger.
Numerous other Loudoun businesses feature similar husband-and-wife owners or operators. Julie Boncarosky Holmes, and husband Mike manage Virginia Tire & Auto in different roles. Julie is president and Mike CEO in the business that has numerous chain auto shops.
Some met on the job. Angela and Scott Goodman, owners of the Famous Toastery of Ashburn franchise, met at work more than a decade ago. “We were in roles that depended upon each other daily so we learned how to work together as a team,” Angela said. “There were days we didn’t always see eye to eye, but in the end we completed the job and did the best we could.”
Opening a restaurant together was the ultimate test of their bond, she said. “We learned to love each other a little every day through teamwork and that has transcended our entire relationship,” Angela said. “We don’t know how not to work together… The struggles we have endured have continued to strengthen our bond. He is my partner 50/50 in everything and also my support – no less than 100 percent – and I am the same for him. Some days, it’s the most natural flow, and other days, it’s a mental choice. But we always know we are stronger together.”
Office romances that lead to marriage continue to grow. Some 31 percent of respondents to an annual national survey headed by employment firm CareerBuilder said an office romance resulted in marriage, up from 30 percent a year ago.
But future years could see a dip, since the percentage of respondents who said they engaged in an office romance in the past year dropped to 36 percent from 41 percent in 2017. The sexual harassment “MeToo” campaign might be a factor, though workers could also be less forthcoming when answering surveys in the current climate, Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder said in a statement.
“To avoid negative consequences at work, it’s important to set ground rules within your relationship that help you stay professional in the office and keep your personal life private,” she said.
For instance, dating someone you directly manage or your boss is not the wisest move, she said. Checking office policies is another recommendation. Six percent of respondents said they left a job because a romantic relationship soured.
Working with her husband has not been an issue for three main reasons, said Renee Ventrice, who runs Cork & Keg Tours out of the family Broadlands-area home mostly on weekends with hubby Don. While both have regular jobs, she runs marketing, communications, creative and navigating areas for the side business, as he handles financial and business aspects, along with van operations.
“We have opposite skills and talents,” noted Renee. “We don’t compete for each other’s duties. We love the winery, craft brewery and hospitality industries, and we genuinely like each other.”
They share aspects of taking care of guests “because we both enjoy creating memorable experiences,” she said.
Being able to make each other laugh is an important element, Renee said. They also allow each other to work through disagreements openly. Some of our best ideas were spawned from disagreements that ended up improving our services,” she said. “Neither of us allow egos to get in the way of progress. Sometimes you just take a deep breath, pick your battles and move on.”
High school sweethearts Bryan and Mary Jewett have dealt with relationship matters since ninth grade. Bryan is owner of Casey’s Automotive shop in Sterling, while Mary handles areas such as marketing, human resources and accounting for their latest business.
They try hard to stop talking about work when home and focus on their four children, including a newborn, and family issues then. Working together has perks such as getting more time to eat lunch and laugh together, Mary said.
“I get to see my husband working hard, taking on challenges, overcoming stressful situations, and it’s really impressive,” she said. “We work together to overcome challenges too, which really strengthens our ability to work together. I think that makes us a better team not only at work but at home… Overall, it definitely strengthens our relationship, and we feel really lucky to be able to get to work together. It makes work fun. We are best friends at heart, and we have a lot of fun together.”
At Postal Connections, the team concept extends to their teen-age daughters, said Vanita, who met Neal in their native India. They have owned the franchise for the past 11 years, doing more than shipping services, including desktop publishing, renting computers, binding, writing resumes and notary public.
“We work as a team to solve issues. We are very customer-service oriented and work hard to satisfy our customers, to do extra services for them and treat them well,” Vanita said. “On days when I can’t get to work, my daughters fill in nicely. They are very proud that we own this business, and they see it as all of the family’s business.”
Postal Connections is not open Sundays, so the family does get that day off each week. “We haven’t had much time to take off for a vacation,” Neal admits.
The entrepreneurial couples took some time off to spend with each other for Valentines, though most hung out at home.
“We don’t do anything special for Valentine’s Day,” Renee said. “After 25 years together, we’ve learned the value of randomly celebrating and appreciating each other.”