Making a Pact Over Who’s the Boss

Greenfield Hospitality Services Inc. was the company we co-founded and ran together for over 18 years.

Our original plan had been to be hospitality industry consultants.  I would focus on hospitality sales and marketing projects and Heinz would deal with food & beverage work. We had a vision of what we wanted to do, but no real plan to make it happen.

At first Heinz’s income from the contract with his former employer kept us going. I was hustling hard to get my own gigs going, and fortunately, in October 1999, I had a break-through.  My first big consulting project confirmed – $10,000! And it had long-term potential.  We were off to the races. I was SO relieved.

We were happily working from home, juggling trips to client locations and household chores. Iliana went to a neighbour’s during business hours, so she could have play time with other little kids and we could get our work done (that was a big lesson, by the way: childcare is a MUST if you are going to make a go of your business! Do NOT kid yourself that you can handle it all!).

Soon the business took off. My consulting project became a long-term contract and I was bringing in great income. I could be Doreen-the-business-entrepreneur. I hadn’t made a big mistake, as I had originally feared.

The company grew and we rented office space in town. Truth be told we HAD to move our work space because (a) our internet in the country was SO slow (dial-up… remember, this was in the year 2000!) and (b) working from home made me this crazy workaholic! I’d go down at 8 pm to do a load of laundry only to get lured by my computer to answer emails until midnight!

My work was growing and buzzing… But Heinz’s side of the business was not. He was floundering. He hated having to “put himself out there” and solicit clients. I am the natural salesperson; he is not.

I started resenting the fact I was bringing more revenue than he was, and having to work so hard. Thankfully he was really great about picking up the slack at home. But again, there was the guilt; he was with our daughter more than I was. Our roles were reversed and there I was again: torn between love and business.

Eventually we made a pact: I would be “bringing in the beans” and he would count them. Having always enjoyed numbers (he’d managed huge budgets and kept track of food and labour costs in his corporate job), he became our full-time CFO. It was a peace that was fragile, at times. Mostly because I was still resentful of my responsibilities.  And he may have felt that he wasn’t “being the breadwinner.”

By age 6 or 7 I recall our daughter explaining to one of her teachers: “My Mommy is the boss at the office, and my Daddy is the boss at home.”  She’d figured it out and wasn’t fazed by any of it. Another lesson: we torture ourselves way too much over roles and what other people may or may not think.  Kids are much more accepting of life situations than adults!

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