Alexi Venneri, Co-founder & CEO, Digital Air Strike
I think some people and companies are automatically resistant to even considering spouses working together, but I was fortunate in that I had already worked with my husband at two prior companies over the course of our 13 year marriage. We are somewhat unique in that we both have similar skill sets, work experience and very strong work ethics – almost to a fault.
I started Digital Air Strike in 2010 at our kitchen table after recognizing a need to develop technology to help business owners leverage social media networks. At the time it made sense for my husband, Dave, to keep his job running digital marketing sales teams so we had a separate, steady income stream and benefits. It was a good strategy at the time but once Digital Air Strike took off and was profitable I should have made a stronger play to get my husband working with me sooner because I knew from experience how much he could help a company grow even faster.
In prior generations there were many family-run businesses for a reason. Often a family member would be more vested in the company as an owner and possibly more dedicated to its success. You could work nearly around the clock together towards a common goal. In some cases certain skill sets could be passed on and in a fast-growing business, working together could help keep marriages together as it could be the best or only way to spend time together.
After years of building my business without my husband involved day-to-day, and watching him help other companies grow by building world-class sales teams, it became a necessity to bring him to Digital Air Strike. This was partially so we could see each other, but more so that it gave us a common goal. I was fortunate to know that his talents would be complementary to mine and our executive leadership team had the perfect opening. He joined the company about a year ago and it has been a huge win for us personally and professionally.
So what secrets do we employ, both years ago at prior companies, and today to make working with each other a success? Here are a few:
- At work we are colleagues. If you don’t notice our last names are the same and know already that we are married – -you likely wouldn’t figure it out at work. It takes practice to behave as colleagues not spouses, but it helps with the entire management team dynamic and ensures no one feels uncomfortable.
- We respect each other. I know and respect what Dave can accomplish professionally and vice versa. It also helps that we have very separate roles – – we even work on separate floors of the office.
- My spouse doesn’t report directly to me. Yes, as the CEO I ultimately have the entire team reporting to me but our COO is his direct supervisor.
- We discuss work in a general sense “at home” but anything specific such as new ideas or requesting approvals has to follow the same protocol at the office as others need to follow.
- We schedule specific times at night and on the weekends to “unplug” – literally. No computer, no email.
- We also schedule a vacation every 6 months like clockwork. We intentionally go to Europe or on a cruise where it is much harder to be online so we can really take a mental break and get some much needed family time.
Fast forward five years and Digital Air Strike is now considered a pioneer and the leader in digital response, social marketing and online reputation management in the automotive industry with partnerships with six of eight of the largest auto OEMs, dozens of the top dealer groups, and thousands of retail dealerships across the United States and Canada. We are ranked in the top third of all Inc. Fastest-Growing Private Companies in the US; a winner of Red Herring North America: Top 100, awarded four American Business “Stevie” awards including gold (the top honor) for Management Team of the Year, named a Top 10 Most Interesting and Innovative Company, and awarded the #1 Dealers’ Choice Award for Reputation Management
Working toward the same goal, knowing the same business, having the same colleagues, and sharing in all the business accomplishments together ultimately make both our marriage and company stronger. But just like anything, you have to know the pros and cons and work to maximize the benefits while lessening the risks.
About the Author
Alexi Venneri is the co-founder and CEO of Digital Air Strike, the award-winning automotive social media and digital engagement company. A pioneer in the automotive vertical for digital response, social marketing and online reputation management, Digital Air Strike’s mobile apps, software and managed service platform monitor, improve and manage consumer engagement for six of the largest automotive manufacturers, dozens of the top dealer groups, and thousands of retail dealerships across North America.
Prior to co-founding the company, Alexi was President of Auto Media/Blue Flame 6 and VP of Marketing, PR & Investor Relations at Dealertrack (TRAK). Alexi was the 13th employee at Who’s Calling taking it from $200k to $70 million in just four years as Chief Marketing Officer. Alexi also served as the Director of Marketing for the Major League Baseball team the Seattle Mariners. She is an accomplished public speaker and author of the best-selling book Balls! Six Rules for Winning the Business Game.