Inbound Marketing and Power Couples Make for a Strong Pair [Interview]

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Angela Hicks
Angela Hicks



Love is certainly in the air as Valentine's Day is quickly approaching. If you are in a long-time union or have a brand-new sweetheart, you may want to ask yourself: Would I also want to work with them and become a power couple?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are approximately 4 million family-owned businesses and more than 1.4 million of those are run by a husband-and-wife team. HubSpot took a closer look at some outstanding inbound marketing agencies, and a bit of a trend developed in our research as we found numerous HubSpot Partners are running their businesses with a friend, a family member or even their spouse. We wanted to find out how these agencies are successful at both work and home. If you are considering starting your own business, you might not have to look very far to find your business partner!

Learn how some HubSpot Partners achieve success in the following interview.

HubSpot Partners Who Live, Work and Play Together

  1. How did you reach the idea of starting your company and work together with a loved one?

    Creatrix Marketing:
    "I'm passionate about inbound marketing, and I believe it is the most effective way for organizations to reach their target audience," said Jon Pavoni, Creatrix founder. "In 2013, I wanted to create a firm to help companies put together effective inbound marketing plans for their organizations. On the personal side, I wanted the independence that entrepreneurship allowed for. In the last two years I've learned so much about marketing, sales, customer support and cash management. Lastly, I wanted to work with a great team of people. I believe building a team of great people will eventually help us create a great organization." 

    Jon and Justin Pavoni are first cousins who grew up together and have been doing real estate investments based on a handshake since their early-twenties. Jon had some success with the firm in his first year, and wanted to grow the business. Justin had recently got out of the military, decided that entrepreneurship was a good fit, and thought that working with his best buddy was worth a shot. Justin's wife Jessica is also an important part of the team. She's the editor and does a lot of the writing and research work.
    Quintain Marketing:
    John and Kathleen Booth started Quintain ten years ago right around the time they got married. John was a partner at a marketing company and decided to start his own business. Kathleen was an International Development consultant, which required extensive overseas travel. John asked if Kathleen was interested in starting a marketing agency with him. They were also getting ready to start a family and Kathleen had been considering a career move.

    Working together made sense because they were both at a turning point in their careers and wanted to work closer to home and achieve better work-life balance. For the last ten years, Quintain's office has never been more than a mile from home -- a huge improvement from the past when they both had to commute with extensive travel all over the world.

    Because of young children, it was important to be present in their lives and to have the flexibility to attend school performances and coach their sports teams. Kathleen explains, "In addition to having the common goal of improving our quality of life, we had very complimentary skill sets. John comes from a sales background, and I have an MBA in marketing, so together we make a great smarketing team! He's the creative, I'm the doer. The list goes on and on!"
    SP Home Run is a marketing agency run by Jennifer and Joshua Feinberg that helps IT channel companies, including IT consulting firms, computer repair businesses, and managed service providers find clients, retain clients, and grow by using Inbound Marketing.

    "From 2002 to 2012, our company provided training to small IT companies," said Joshua. "In 2011, we began using HubSpot internally to replace a hodge-podge of systems and more reliably scale some of the thought leadership assets we'd developed such as: blogs, screencast videos, and webinars. Around the same time, we also began noticing how the IT industry changes and digital marketing challenges were really turning many assumptions on their heads and companies we'd been working with for over a decade could benefit from inbound marketing also."

    When the two first started dating, Jennifer was working as an operations manager for a small inventory advisory firm and Joshua was building an SMB-focused IT consulting firm in the same area, targeting many of the same kinds of local businesses. Between having some especially cool clients and a book contract with Microsoft Press, Jennifer says she was certain that Joshua's career was more fun and exciting, and provided more freedom and opportunity. So they joined up. 

    Wheatcraft Design:
    Kevin Wheatcraft is a former HubSpotter who now runs a design firm with his brother, Brian. "Prior to HubSpot, I did a bit of contract work as a web design and front-end developer," said Kevin. "I got lucky enough to land at HubSpot, where I honed my technical troubleshooting skills on the Support team and learned an incredible amount about the day-to-day of agency life from working with HubSpot partners as a Channel Consultant. The network of great friends and helpful mentors at HubSpot turned out to be the perfect launch pad for going out on my own, which had always been my long term plan." 

    "It was an obvious decision to have my brother, Brian, help me out," he continued. "He is one of the most talented designers I know and it's great to have somebody that you can trust completely and communicate with so easily. My brother Brian and I have a similar skill set as we both obtained degrees in graphic design. Kevin handles all of the business development, client management, and website development. Brian is our full-time job graphic designer and produces great designs, but doesn't have to worry much about any of the other business decisions, so it's great balance for us both."

  2. What is the biggest challenge that you've encountered since you've been working together?

    Creatrix Marketing:
    Jon Pavoni: "There are a lot of challenges when trying to build a business. I don't think we could pick just one, but here are a few of the big things we think about fairly often: how we each fit into the larger strategy, making payroll happen, developing processes, hiring outside talent, learning a new industry in my case, and trying not to take yourself too seriously while you're at it. The support tools and our liaisons at Hubspot have been really helpful in this regard."

    Quintain Marketing:
    Kathleen Booth: "Striking a balance between working closely together and maintaining our independence has been tough. You want to have things to talk about at the end of the day and we've found that if we have too much overlap in the work we do, that is really hard. What has enabled us to work so well together has been having a clear delineation between our job roles and also physical separation. Our offices are literally at opposite ends of the suite!

    And while we definitely bicker and disagree, we work hard to do it in a way that is respectful and professional. Recently, we decided to turn this into an asset and are in the process of launching a new podcast called "He Said/She Said" about using marketing to get more leads and grow your business, but told through two different male and female viewpoints."

    SP Home Run:
    Joshua Feinberg: "Actually the first five or six years of working together was relatively smooth sailing, including moving across the country and pivoting our business model. The first real curve ball came when our daughter was born and we had to learn to balance the demands of growing a business side by side with raising an infant.

    Just as we started to get good at it, and our daughter was nearing kindergarten, our son was born -- which started the time-crunch juggling all over again. So I think there are really two distinctly different challenges for married co-founders to navigate: working together as a couple and working together as a couple while raising a family with young children."

    Wheatcraft Design:
    Kevin Wheatcraft:  "We have always had a great relationship so we don't really run into any communication issues. The biggest challenge is making sure that the project scheduling correctly is aligned properly so that the workload stays manageable for both of us. As long as I give Brian enough lead time on projects, we usually don't have any issues."
  3. How do you manage to keep a good work-life balance and not allow personal issues to affect work or work stresses to impact your family life?

    Creatrix Marketing:
    Jon Pavoni: "This is tough! The business can definitely take up 18 hours of your day if you let it. Once you figure that out it's all about deliberately making time for work and time for NOT work. Jon is the man at keeping things light plus the stakes are a lot less serious than what I'm used to in the military. We like digital marketing but let's try to keep it in perspective with the rest of our lives."

    Quintain Marketing:
    Kathleen Booth: "I would be lying if I said we always kept our work and personal lives separate. It's really hard, particularly when both husband and wife are in the business, to leave work-related stress at home and vice versa. We do our best to set a limit on how much work-related stuff we talk about at home (just last week, we talked about limiting ourselves to thirty minutes a day of work talk when we're in the house we'll see how well we do at that!) and try to spend time doing things that don't involve the business. 

    This winter, it's been lots of day trips to ski with our kids. We've also found that it's important to keep to a schedule and be as productive as possible while we're in the office. We get there every day by 8:30 am and rarely go out for lunch or coffee, unless it's to meet a client or prospect. But we also make a point of leaving at a reasonable hour and sitting down to have dinner with our children. In my opinion, that is really important."

    SP Home Run:
    Joshua Feinberg: "It's a constant juggling act. While we'd love to tell you that we have all the answers for eliminating stress, basic things such as: exercising every day, getting a good night's sleep and making healthy eating choices, all seem to help."

    Wheatcraft Design:
    Kevin Wheatcraft: "It can be challenging, but being busy is the best problem to have for a new consulting business! In terms of keeping a good work/life balance for myself, I make it a rule that I will get out of the house for at least an hour every day, whether that be the gym, group activities, or just regular errands. To recharge, I also take time off one day/night each week to socialize. For Brian, I try to always give him a heads up to make sure he can take the work before I commit to it, so that it doesn't interfere with his regular work/life balance."
  4. Do you have any advice for anyone who is considering starting a business with their parents, significant others, siblings or best friends?

    Creatrix Marketing:
    Jon Pavoni:
    "Best advice - don't give up. I'm convinced we will succeed if we don't quit. Also, be patient with your friends and family. Business relationships are different than personal relationships and it takes some time to develop the business side of things when you've previously only hung out at a personal level."

    Quintain Marketing:
    Kathleen Booth: "Ha! Think long and hard before you do it because it's not for everyone. I personally have loved working with my husband and believe it has brought us much closer than we otherwise would be, but it is not for the faint of heart. You have to be someone who is comfortable taking on risk, so that when the business isn't doing well and it is the sole source of income for your family, the stress doesn't kill you. Most of all, you have to have an incredible amount of respect for each other and be committed to communicating openly and honestly. It's no coincidence that these are the same things that make for a great marriage!"

    SP Home Run:
    Joshua Feinberg: "A lot of people might say you're nuts. And small business gurus like Marcus Lemonis are even adamantly against the idea. But we know a whole bunch of husband and wife HubSpot partners that seem to be navigating the world of growing their agency while growing their family. Maybe INBOUND 2015 will be the year for a family-owned HubSpot Partners session or mixer event. How about a #HubPartnerFamily hashtag?"

    Wheatcraft Design:
    Kevin Wheatcraft: "If it is going to be a true partnership, you need to make sure that both partners share the same vision. You can disagree on tactics of how to achieve what you want, but having the same end goal is critical to the long term success of the business. It should go without saying that you can't be greedy when it comes to working with someone who you're that close with."

We'd like to extend many congratulations to a (now larger) #HubPartnerFamily to Thinkhandy. Husband-and-wife team Chris and Bethany were asked to be interviewed for this article at the same time as the birth of their first child, Harper. Congratulations and best of luck to the Thinkhandy team! 

Do you strengthen your HubSpot Partner agency by working with your partner, friend or sibling? Are you considering working with or hiring someone in your family? Let us know on Twitter using the hashtag #HubPartnerFamily !

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