In love and in business, “Copreneur” couples face special challenges

Nov.20 – AS PARTNERS in marriage and business, Adria and Aaron Bagshaw find it difficult to keep work out of their conversations. So when it’s time to take a break, they recruit friends.

“We’ve learned that when we go out to dinner, we’re either talking about the kids or business, so we’ve had a lot of success when our date night involves another couple. We end up sharing a lot more in a more meaningful way,” said Adria, Vice President of WH Bagshaw Company.

The Bagshaws were among 20 people who gathered at the Derryfield Country Club on Wednesday to listen to Rye family business adviser Everett Moitoza as he spoke about “entrepreneurial” couples – brave souls who take running a business to the challenges add to a successful romantic relationship.

Last year, the Bagshaws expanded their Nashua machine shop to make baseball bats and on Friday celebrated the opening of the Walter Bat Training Center, a separate business that provides practice areas for baseball and softball players.

Eighteen years ago, Adria joined the company founded in 1870 by Walter Henry Bagshaw, her husband’s great-great-grandfather.

“I came on board after our first child was born. The company was at a crossroads. I had skills that could help in the business, so I jumped in,” Adria said Wednesday morning after the presentation of the UNH CEO and the family business at the Manchester Center.

About 30 percent of family businesses nationwide are run by couples, Moitoza said, which equates to about 40 businesses in New Hampshire. He linked much of his talk to responses from married couples to a survey about running a business together.

Some of the biggest challenges include: maintaining the boundaries between work and personal life, balancing the workload between partners and knowing when to ask for outside help.

For the business — and the relationship — to thrive, partners need mutual respect, a shared vision, clear communication and clear responsibilities that leverage their complementary skills, Moitoza said.

During the presentation, Adria Bagshaw told the group that there can be a problem when there is a perceived imbalance of duties, responsibilities and workload.

Aaron chimed in to agree, emphasizing the word “perceived.” And evoke laughter in the group.

“We’ve gotten really good at communicating,” Adria said after the interview.

Peggy Ames and Patrick Brown also know what it’s like when a spouse jumps into a long-established business.

In 2011, Ames and her father took over the Ames Farm Inn, a family business founded in 1890, a resort in Gilford on Lake Winnipesaukee. Brown, who still works full-time in IT for a healthcare company, joined in 2015.

Ames is the fifth generation to run the family business, which dates back to 1777 when the property was a working farm. She said Moitoza’s presentation increased her optimism about running the company with her husband.

“It made me feel good that we’re already going in the right direction by separating responsibilities and I feel like we respect each other’s abilities,” she said.

Brown, who moves into the business, spends most of his time on the company’s finances and also handles HR duties. Ames focuses primarily on guest relations.

“I think the emphasis on communication and respect resonated,” Brown said of Moitoza’s presentation.

The couple, who moved to New Hampshire from Massachusetts in 2015, have one daughter, but she’s in college now. That’s a good thing, because her parents work 24/7 during the high season until the end of October.

“We were very excited about the future of our company. Our guests have been coming back for generations, so we keep that experience for them,” said Ames.

The CEO & Family Enterprise Center – based at the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire at Durham – works with business owners in New Hampshire, Maine and northern Massachusetts.

“Family businesses want to be surrounded by other family businesses and be on an equal footing because they have situations that are unique but everyone goes through them at some point,” said Michelline Dufort, who joined the center as director five years ago.

“Being in the room and listening to experts is one thing. The other thing is they’re building relationships with the other family businesses so they can start learning peer to peer – ‘How did you deal with that? What have you done? ‘”

Mike Cote is senior editor for news and business. Contact him at [email protected] or (603) 206-7724.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not represent the views and opinions of Sponsor, its members and affiliates.