The Power of Two

Labor Day weekend is upon us. For many, that means one final summer trip to the beach before the ceremonial packing away of the bathing suits and white pants. For others, it means back to school next week, or that the holiday shopping season countdown has begun. (Please, no.)

For me, Labor Day weekend signals my wedding anniversary—12 years this Sunday—to the person who is my best friend and better half both in life and at C.Fox Communications.

This week’s unconventional (and perhaps for him at this moment, a bit uncomfortable) intersection is devoted to none other than my partner in all things, Brian Fox.

Many have asked us over the years how we work together and stay married, but I’ve never seen it as a challenge. Often, I just shrug off the question and answer with some variation of: “For us, it just works.”

But the reality is, it doesn’t “just work.” It works because we’re constantly working to make it work.

On our anniversary three years ago, Brian and I were asked to deliver an opening address at Loyola University’s Executive MBA program. We were asked to speak about the lessons that have informed our leadership styles. We rarely have the opportunity to present together, which made this experience at our alma mater a special one, and as we head into this Labor Day weekend, it felt worth pulling out of the archives.

Here are a few of the lessons we shared on that day three years ago:

Lesson 1: Remember What it Felt Like at the Start
Starting and running a company is not for the faint of heart, and doing it with your spouse while raising two young children takes on another dimension completely. But it’s worked for us because we’re not only on the same team, but because we remember what it was like on the ground floor. (Literally, on the ground floor of our Silver Spring townhouse, in a guest bedroom that became our first shared office space.) We’ve learned to work well in close quarters, and we’ve learned that even the best teams need some space every once in a while, too. But in every phase of building this company, we’ve never shied away from doing what needs to get done, even when that means washing the office’s kitchen towels. The lesson we’ve always remembered, from our very early professional experiences, is to seek out opportunities to learn what the job is like on every level: to see what it’s like to work with people of all different backgrounds and in all different situations, and to never to be afraid of new experiences or diverse teams. Hard work happens on the ground level, and it’s important not to forget what it feels like to just be starting out. If you can remember that, you’ll always be a leader that others can relate to, and that inspires that same spirit in those around you.

Lesson 2: Trust your Instincts
When we started building the business together in 2008, we had a shared sense for what we believed in, but our principles as business leaders have been refined based on our own experiences in recent years.  One of the most important lessons we’ve learned is that you must always trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right. For us, that’s meant turning down business when it didn’t fit our principles. That may have seemed like a strange thing to do during the 2008 recession, for instance, but it’s always been more important for us to like WHO we’re working for and the ISSUES we’re representing, than to take on an assignment that we don’t personally believe in. It’s made us stronger as a team, and stronger as business leaders.

Lesson #3: Strive for Balance, Aware that it Won’t Come Easy 
This one’s a given when you work with your spouse, but hang with me. When we hit about 5 employees, we realized just how much those employees were watching us. If we worked late, everyone worked late (and in the early days of our business, we had many more late nights than we do now). The lesson we work hard every day to remember is that this job—or any job for that matter—does not define us. As business owners, we work hard to force balance in our personal and professional lives. We work hard to share the load and to give one another breaks from the chaos. It’s in those moments that I believe we’ve become better leaders, and a better pair.

Regardless of what the future holds for us as business leaders, I know one thing for certain: the path for me has been lined with great moments, and there’s been no better partner in the climb.

Happy Anniversary, Brian.