Tips, advice for married couples taking the vow to run a franchise

Marriage License & Wedding Rings

By Judy Mottl

A happy union of marriage is no easy feat as it requires love, passion, dedication, commitment, loyalty and lots of communication, just to name a few top aspects.

The same requirements are also key to establishing and running a successful franchise operation.

So, in some respects, married franchisees can be a few steps ahead when it comes to running a franchise. But there are some unique challenges as well when you’re married to your business partner.

One hurdle is parsing out specific job responsibilities and that requires determining individual skills.

Shannon and Heather Hudson launched their fitness center concept, 9Round Nation, in 2008 and have been married nine years. They both love the flexibility it provides as parents and, as Shannon noted, there is “nothing more important than having your family with you.”

But the founder and CEO acknowledges it took a bit of time to determine who would do what, handle what and juggle what.

“We have common family goals and business goals but we stay in our lanes,” he told attendees during a session, ‘Married Couples as Business Partners,’ at last week’s International Franchise Expo in New York City.  The panel talk was one of dozens during the three-day event at the Javits Center.

Shannon deals with day-to-day operations while Heather takes the lead on marketing, computer work and social media in her role as co-founder and COO.

“Even if we don’t agree we are loyal to the hilt and we don’t take our work home with us. You also have to make sure you acknowledge each other’s work in front of the entire team,” he said, adding “arguments are part of any relationship but you just have to be aligned at the end of the day. We try to lead by example.”

The couple run five franchise centers themselves and oversee nearly 400 franchised locations, across 10 countries, many of which are run by married couples.

“It’s tough, it’s hard. Nothing in life is easy. To be successful [as a married franchise operations team] you have to find out what each other likes to do and who does what the best and create the roles from there,” said Shannon.

For Karen and Frank Panzer, going into business as a CruiseOne/DreamVacations franchise wasn’t as new as it was for the Hudsons. The retired business professionals (she was in ad sales for decades, he ran hotels and nightclubs) initially launched a retail brick-and-mortar luxury consignment shop together in 2010. They embarked on the franchise while running the store and eventually closed the store to focus on the travel business.

Success, said the Panzers, is tied to the fact they chose a franchise that met a big personal passion: travel.

“Travel was a good fit as we’ve always loved to travel and we want to keep travelling,” said Karen. The couple believe running a franchise together is a great fit on a personal level.

“We love being together so it was a great idea for us. You have to want to spend significant time with your significant other,” said Karen with a smile.

The other ‘pros’ of a married franchise operation scenario include the opportunity to spend days together, achieve common goals and work alongside your best friend.

The cons include the fact that the lines between work time and family time can get blurred quickly, while vacations can be hard to plan and, with both spouses working in the same company, the resulting financial toll of failure can be higher.

Yet neither Hudson nor the Panzers have had to deal with most of the cons.

“You both have to be interested in what you’re doing,” said Frank. His wife concurs.

“We divide and conquer, the work we do with the business is tied to our own strengths. We figured out what we are each good at and we respect each other’s expertise.”