Like many couples, Lorna Carter and Geoff Blanc didn’t always plan to go into business together.
“When our friends asked if we were interested, I didn’t even think where the money was coming from, I said yes, and here we are,” says Ms Carter, the self-described “pushy one”.
Formerly from the finance industry, the now married couple have grown Sydney-based wholesale business, Candle Supply, into an operation across three warehouses selling approximately 60,000 kilograms of fragrance and 400,000kgs of wax annually.
But it hasn’t always been easy. And the pair aren’t alone.
While data on couples in small business together is scant, an estimated 70 per cent of small businesses are family owned according to advisory firm Family Business Australia (FBA). And there is no shortage of sources of conflict. According to research by FBA and KPMG last year, current leaders of family businesses say balancing the needs of the family versus the needs of the business is the top catalyst for clashes. Family member communication style was next, followed by financial stress and succession related issues.
Mr Blanc, who Ms Carter labels the “numbers man” of the business, admits he would work through the night if Lorna didn’t tell him when “it’s time to go”. He believes you need to find a “trigger”, something to pull you out of work, which for them is their two daughters.
“We spend all day together, talking about the business,” he says, adding their different personalities are assets for the business.
“We know the challenges, whether we’ve got issues, what we’re doing about it. So really, we don’t need to discuss that when we go home, we just love to spend time with the girls as soon as we get home. They’ll drag us away quicker than you can blink.”
In FBA’s report last year, Michelle De Lucia, director, KPMG Enterprise, said family businesses should not be afraid of some conflict, arguing there was often longer-term upside.
“If we can get everyone to acknowledge different styles, and we can get a good healthy debate around the table, then you’re halfway there on the communication piece,” she said.