My husband and I used to drive work together from Aventura to downtown Miami. He is a morning person. I am not. He would rush me out the door and then try to make conversation as soon as I shut the car door. Some days, he would sing along happily to cheery tunes. By the time he dropped me off at my office, I was ready to strangle him. I need my space.
Yet, around me I see many couples who work, live and play together without any tension. In fact, they make it look easy. Helen and Jacob Shaham are a great example. They built their company together from it’s start in 1980. Today the couple own and operate nine senior communities under The Palace brand, including two in Homestead plus one under construction, four in Kendall, one in Coral Gables, one in Tel Aviv. They also developed an active adult community in Weston and they own and operate The Palace at Home, a home health agency.
They have worked side by side for 36 years. How do they do it?
In honor of the upcoming Valentine’s Day, Helen shares her survival tips.
1. Divide responsibilities. Jacob is the visionary. He selects future Palace sites while overseeing financial and legal aspects. I am in charge of marketing, architectural and interior design, customer service, the hospitality and human resources. We both are heavily involved in construction decisions and development. I may be at a site frequently to review construction aspects in the design of the building and units while Jacob is involved with the general contractors. We recognize when specialists are needed and hire top talent and consultants.
2. Respect the talents of one another. We would not be able to build The Palace Group without the respect and trust in each other. We disagree and fight, but in the end we hear each other’s point of view. At the time of our original partnership with Lennar, I needed to be convinced it was the right move at the time. Jacob explained we couldn’t do it alone. He was able to convince me but the final decision took two years.
3. Build a case by putting it in writing. When I want something I find the best way is to write it down to build my case. It may take the form of a 5-10 page letter but it’s the best way to explain my point of view.
4. Make it a family affair. We wanted our children to be exposed to what we were doing. Dinner was like a board meeting because we had so many issues to discuss about The Palace. When the kids left for college, we were building The Palace Tel Aviv and without the children, dinner was watching the 8:00 news to learn about Israel. Now at dinner we really don’t talk about work. Our two sons are involved in the company—Zack is the Executive Director of The Palace Gardens, the assisted living community in Homestead and Haim is the Director of Sales for The Palace Coral Gables. Our niece, Liat Cohen, is Corporate Human Resources Recruiter.
5. Recognize your differences. I am the pessimist while Jacob is the optimist. I wake up and think what can go wrong and what disasters can occur but Jacob balances me. He can look up at the sky in the morning and enjoy the beauty of the day. In the morning, I have learned to not start talking about the problems we may face that day and enjoy his perspective.
6. Don’t compete with your spouse. Spouses aren’t competitors. Neither of us has to be right. Working together means everyone will share credit.
7. Have separate hobbies and interests. Jacob enjoys golf and playing courses where we travel; I am an avid reader and a fitness fanatic. I log my steps walking each day. I also enjoy estate sales and have collected many of antiques that are used in Palace communities.
8. Be passionate about your business. Both of us usually can be found at one of our communities. We make an effort to be accessible to our employees and talk and listen to them. We try to have lunch with not just managers but our hourly employees too. It’s not unusual to invite managers to meetings at our home as well. We make a concerted effort to learn about everyone.
9. Hold on to family traditions. Regardless of our schedule, it’s tradition for the family to come together for Friday night (Sabbath) dinner and usually 20-25 may gather at our home.
10. Be crazy in love with each other. Love has carried us through the many challenges we have faced over 36 years.
Readers, what are your thoughts about working with your spouse? Do you think it would enhance your marriage as it as for the Shahams, or would it destroy it?