My husband and I were married for seven years when we started Jonas Paul Eyewear in 2013. When we started our life together, we never imagined going down this path - growing together as wedding photographers to starting a business in the medical field without having any experience in optometry was a huge leap with no shortage of long nights and unwelcomed lessons learned.
I very clearly remember the first conversations with friends and family about our idea of launching Jonas Paul Eyewear. Of course, everyone thought we were in over our heads. Not only did it seem like a large undertaking, but we had just given birth to our son Jonas, who was born with a rare disorder that causes blindness. Needless to say, we had our hands full - constantly in and out of the hospital for 21 eye surgeries that helped Jonas achieve low vision - but amidst it all, we remained devoted to finding a way to make our dreams of launching this business together work.
While the thought of spending literally all your time together may be daunting to some, there are so many unique advantages to tackling business with your life partner that outweigh this silly fear. After all, you go into a marriage knowing you'll be each other's rock - the one who your partner will lean on and come to at life's most trying moments.
If you are able to conquer your days in this way, imagine the power you can harness when applied to your business! Ben and I take pride in our ability to balance our marriage with our business, and oftentimes find ourselves sharing our experiences with others looking to do the same.
Not a day goes by without learning something new, these are the ways we've been able to make loving, working, and living all work.
Define your roles and set boundaries.
Couples have a tendency to micromanage in marriages, so give each other ownership of certain roles from the start, and trust that you'll both do awesome. Early on in our working relationship we sat down and had a heart to heart as we knew we needed to define our roles and responsibilities, we would often find ourselves stepping on each other's toes and questioning one another's work. Once we did this and identified the areas that each of us are strong in, we could then confidently trust the other person and know that the jobs would be completed without having to micromanage one another.
Keep the communication lines open.
We know, this is the opposite of what most say - but it's okay to talk about business on date night! We used to keep it off-limits but it was inevitable, kind of like talking about your child. If you embrace it, you remove the stress of trying to avoid it. We are currently training for a half marathon and we've also found that on our runs we are having our business strategy meetings. An unexpected place and time to talk about business, but it has worked out well. We are exercising while getting work done at the same time. So now we know three mornings a week we have a dedicated time to training and getting some work done. It's a win-win in our book!
Compliments are key
Complementing one another regarding work can be a hard one, as it is easier to encourage our team and the work that they are doing rather than each other. But thankfully, we do try really hard to encourage one another on the work that they are doing as everyone likes to be praised in some way. I truly believe that encouraging your partner (whether at home or work) is extremely important. And for us, sometimes the best time of day to do this is when we get home from the office and are pouring a glass of wine and cooking dinner as our kids are running around the house.
It's OK to vent
Being able to vent to one another and know that you aren't going to upset the other person is really helpful when growing a business. This is unique because as business partners, you share the same stressors at work. It's helpful because you can actually relate to these joys and frustrations, whereas couples working in different industries may experience a disconnect. There is no one else that better understands what the other person is going through in our situation, and we've always looked at that as a good thing. Being able to relate on this level, while growing a business has brought us so much closer in our marriage.
So, who says married couples can't make a successful business team? Yes, having a happy marriage alone takes work from both sides - and starting a business together does add to that. It can be hard, it will be hard, but it is amazing what you can accomplish when you work towards a shared mission together. As you take a step back and reflect on the journey, the unparalleled joy you will share with your partner as you fulfill your dreams together will make it all worth it.
Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.
When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.
2016: What rules?
Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.
Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.
And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.
And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?
Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.
Digital policies for 2020 and beyond
While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.
Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy
Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:
- If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
- While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
- If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
- Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
- Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?
Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.
Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply
The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:
- Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
- Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
- Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
- Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
- Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
- Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
- Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
- Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.
Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles
Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.