Phil and Nellie

This month,’s owners, Nellie and Phil Akalp, will celebrate 16 years of marriage. In addition to learning the secrets of a successful marriage in that timeframe, this husband and wife team also figured out a thing or two about running a business together. Here’s what they think are the big lessons they’ve gleaned on their path together.

1, You Gotta Keep ‘em Separated

Any husband/wife team will tell you that the key to happiness is keeping home and work separate. Phil says, “My role as a business partner is very different from my role as a husband…most of the time.  We try to keep the work at work, and focus on each other, our family, and ourselves when we’re at home.”

Nellie agrees: “With four young kids (11-year-old twins, a 9-year-old, and a 2-year-old), it’s virtually guaranteed that we won’t be discussing company matters over dinner. However, even before our children arrived on the scene, Phil and I worked very hard to refrain from discussing business matters over dinner. It was the one time during the day that we made a clean break from being business partners.”

Nellie says this simple rule helps the couple stay healthy and multi-faceted, both as individuals and as a couple.

 2. Stay Unified

Phil says it can be a challenge when team members at work — like their kids at home — push the couple’s limits and test boundaries, often pitting them against each other.  “If we disagree on a business matter, it’s important to discuss it in private.  Then, it’s better to present it to the team once we have a shared vision.  Though watching us argue, I’ve been told, is entertaining.”

The two agree that they drive in the same car, taking turns at the wheel, but always are headed in the same agreed-upon direction. The two make sure they’re on the same page with their goals and visions for the company. When they’re not, they’re  “just driving in circles and getting nowhere.” And that, as any entrepreneur knows, wastes valuable time and money.

3. Mandate Date Night (Just Like a Business Meeting)

Nellie says it’s just as important to schedule in couple time as it is business meetings. Sometimes it takes moving mountains to make that happen, but the benefits are critical for recharging the batteries of your relationship:

“Even to this day, Phil and I try as hard as possible to have our own date night each week. I know that schedules get busy, and it’s all too easy to put off time for yourself ‘just this week.’ But having this special time together is critical.”

4. Accept that Complete Separation is Impossible

In an ideal scenario, a couple would be able to always separate business and personal, but Nellie acknowledges that it’s not always possible.  And that’s okay.

“From time to time, Phil and I realize that the office is the only place we can discuss important issues free from interruption from the kids. When we do talk about home life in the office, we make sure to do so only when appropriate. And even more importantly, we try to foster a work culture where our employees also feel comfortable attending to some personal matters in the office when it’s necessary.”

They Wouldn’t Have it Any Other Way

Not every couple is cut out to work together day in and out, but for the Akalps, it’s the ideal situation.

“Running or starting a business with your spouse is not for every couple,” says Nellie, “But for Phil and I, it’s been an exhilarating roller coaster and we have no plans of stopping the ride any time soon!”

Happy anniversary to Nellie and Phil!