Lead: Leading with the Heart. How Couples Master Business Ownership and Family.

Today, 53% of all family-owned businesses have spouses at the helm.* For many couples, joint business ownership is the path to their desired lifestyle. From helping meet a couple’s financial dreams to being in control of one’s destiny and schedule, couples find fulfillment in their personal and professional lives together through franchise ownership.

At Goldfish Swim School, the country’s premier learn-to-swim concept, we have our share of couples finding joys and celebrating successes together. This includes Goldfish Swim School Founders Chris and Jenny McCuiston, high school sweethearts who co-founded the Goldfish Concept to Franchise Owners with Peter and Sarah Kepic and Lars and Katie Grisley. Each shared their learnings on growing together while growing successful businesses.

Chris & Jenny McCuiston

Chris & Jenny McCuiston – Co-Founders, Goldfish Swim School and Owners of Birmingham, MI

Believing in one another is what took the idea of Goldfish Swim School from concept to a proven business serving 150,000 families each week. Jenny and Chris are quick to share their learnings on what’s worked for them, hoping it will inspire others to take the same leap of faith they did.

  • Ensure you have individual responsibilities – Just because you are in business together does not mean that your day-to-day has to heavily overlap. And while you will align and work closely on the overarching goal of the business, overseeing different departments and having your own tasks provides space.
  • It’s okay to disagree – No two people agree on everything. In fact, it’s healthy to have disagreements as it allows for an opportunity to strengthen your relationship and work on a resolution together. And if the business disagreement is starting to trickle into your personal lives, don’t be afraid to agree to disagree.
  • Agreeing on work-life balance is a must – Whatever the balance may look like, find commonality in what work-related topics stay ‘in the office’ and when they can be discussed. Dedicate time in each day or week for real life, whether that’s date nights or outings with your kids.
  • Find reliable, external support– Only being able to count or rely on your significant other can put a strain on your relationship. Having a person, or a few people, to offer another point-of-view will help keep things in proper perspective.
Lars & Katie Grisley

Lars & Katie Grisley – East Salt Lake and South Jordan, Utah

No stranger to adversity, this husband/wife team has learned to rely on one another, bringing their unique talents to grow a successful business. They shared:

  • Appreciate the strengths your partner brings to your life and the business Katie says, “Lars has an innate ability to look at a situation and come up with sustainable ideas to solve problems. At the onset of the pandemic, I asked Lars how we were going to be able to keep families safe while still running our business. Lars remembered the privacy dividers we had in school to stop people from looking at each other's work—and that afternoon he was on the phone with a plastics supplier putting the plan into action for our schools. This idea single-handedly saved our business during the pandemic, allowing us to get back to full capacity.”

For Katie and Lars, business ownership has provided them an opportunity to appreciate each other in a way that they never thought would be part of their personal relationship…but it has. It helps them stay together and grow together.

When asked to share advice about couples owning a business together—they offered this, “Be sure you like each other, like spending time with each other and that you balance each other out. If you do and you are willing to share the work (and that does not always mean equally – and you have to be okay with that), then it can be the adventure of a lifetime.”

Pete & Sarah Kepic

Pete & Sarah Kepic – Burlington, Brookline, Danvers, and Needam, MA

Establish your roles early.
Developing clear roles and responsibilities early for Pete and Sarah has been a big part of their success. They discussed which duties each would be best suited for when they started, then jumped into the roles with both feet. In their case, Pete handles all the financial aspects of the schools, from reporting to the partner group to reviewing the P&Ls with the managers every month. Sarah says, “Pete knows we are in the business of customer service and recognizes the value of keeping our customers and staff happy. Without them, we wouldn't have a business!”

Sarah manages the operational side of things. She is building solid relationships between the staff, families, and swimmers. She works directly with the regional and general managers to develop our leadership team. Pete shared, “Sarah’s committed to developing our leadership team. She’s developed them to value our brand and mission of keeping kids safe in and around the water. And because of that, she has tremendous trust in them.”

Sarah and Pete joke all the time that this journey would make for a great book or reality TV show. They feel that franchise ownership has a lot of the same needs as any relationship. They believe:

  • Communication is everything! Without effective communication, it is hard aligning on business decisions and your company's culture.
  • Have one clear decision maker! Everyone knows Sarah makes the decisions yet she takes Pete’s and the team’s insights into account with those decisions.
  • Celebrate! While it is a core value of Goldfish Swim School—it is also essential for your team and your marriage to celebrate the little things and big things in life.

It is evident that Pete and Sarah feel incredibly lucky to be building this business together, and they shared what they are most proud of: their two sons seeing them work so hard for something that they are both passionate about.

Thinking this is the adventure for you and yours? Learn more about owning a Goldfish Swim School by simply fill out the form now for more information.

*National Federation of Independent Businesses

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