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How to work with your spouse without killing each other

Natura Clean owner Kris Koenig looks back on a year of working through differences to strengthen both her marriage and her business.

When I look back on a year, I look at revenue or clients or something very obvious to see how we’ve grown or changed. In 2017 the biggest change was that my husband, Luis Pino, joined our business full time. Our biggest accomplishment was that we figured out how to work together without killing each other or our marriage. Ugh! Working with a spouse can be really hard! While there are some great examples in our industry, not everybody can do it. I love Luis and I know he loves me. We’re the couple that—when you get to know us personally—you think we’re peanut butter and jelly because we just fit. His favorite thing is to make people laugh and my favorite thing to do is laugh.

We have a really strong marriage and personal relationship so working together should be easy, right? Adding work to the mix was not easy and that’s an understatement. When we weren’t working or talking about work, things were great, but the minute we started taking about work we seemed to be at odds. Having Luis rejoin the company after ten years was supposed to make things easier, not harder. Even little things, like deciding who to put together on a team, would turn into tension and an argument. I would quickly decide who I thought needed to be together. That’s it…perfect solution…we’re done. Luis on the other hand would spend a lot of time thinking about it, writing things down, thinking some more, talking about it. I couldn’t understand why this had to be such a production and why he was wasting so much time. He was just trying to get on my nerves, right? Well, he had his own thoughts about why I was doing what I was doing. He just assumed that I wanted to be a control freak.

We had to find a solution fast and I already knew what it was. When I was in Foundations of Success I had a DISC assessment done on myself. It was amazing how accurate the profile was. I learned so much about myself and how I interact with others. I knew Luis needed to have one done and we needed to do a comparison of our styles. I have a friend who is a DISC consultant, so Luis did the survey and we met with her to go over our results and how to best work with each other. It was so enlightening for both of us. I don’t need much time to process things nor a lot of discussion because I’m a D (dominant) I (influence). Luis is an I (influence) S (Steadiness) and likes to talk about things and think them over to make sure it’s the best solution. My style focuses on action and results. Luis’ style focuses on expressing enthusiasm and keeping things fun, collaborating with others, but also oddly for his style he is heavy in challenging unfounded ideas.

We also found that we have more common ground than differences. We like to socialize and are outgoing. We enjoy sharing information. We are open and collaborative. We both are persistent and tenacious. And our differences can benefit our company when applied correctly. I have big ideas which can lead to improvements and Luis has a sense of caution that can help minimize unwanted surprises. I’m very direct when I speak and Luis is diplomatic. Until we did our DISC profiles, I would be direct and unintentionally cause chaos with employees. Luis would have to come along with his great communication skills and diplomacy and fix the mess I had created. It was exhausting for him and he couldn’t understand why I would say things so directly. Now we use our communication styles to benefit the company. Luis is in charge of the employees with recruiting, hiring, firing, training, and managing. I’m in charge of the administrative side of the business. He communicates with the employees and I’m only called in when we need to get a specific point across or need to communicate something very important in a direct way.

The DISC profile, which is also offered by Cleaning Business Builders, clearly defined our roles. It helped us learn how to work together effectively so we can focus on growth for 2018. We ended 2017 as a team and we’re going into 2018 as an even stronger team in both our personal and professional lives. I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish in 2018!

Kris Koenig owns Natura Clean; the Madison, WI area's sustainable green cleaning company; with her husband, Luis Pino. She is a Foundations of Success alum, a winner of two ARCSI Professional Image Awards, a long-time member of the City of Middleton's Sustainability Committee, and a winner of the EPA Excellence in Communication Award. And her friends can attest that she's really a high D. They will tell you that if you don't want to hear the truth, don't ask her a question.

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Author: Kris Koenig
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