Hoffman Realty is one of the most successful property management companies in America. Not only is the company a success, the marriage of its owners is also something beautiful. They’re having heaps of fun together, actually.

What makes it all work?

Let’s find out on today’s episode of The Property Management Show.

Our guests are MaryAnn Hoffman and Andrew Dougill from Hoffman Realty in Tampa, Florida. MaryAnn founded the company in 1998, after graduating from the University of South Florida. Later, she met and married Andrew.

If you’re listening today and you’ve thought about going into business with a partner or spouse, or you’re currently trying to navigate those waters, you’ll get a lot of advice today.

Getting Started in Hoffman Realty

MaryAnn was operating Hoffman Realty when they got married, and Andrew was an engineer working for a large corporation. He was successful and financially secure, and he traveled a lot for work and had a nice corner office. But then in 2000, things went wrong for dot-com companies like his, and he was laid off. This was scary for both of them, and MaryAnn worried about whether she could support them both while Andrew looked for a new job as an engineer.

They made the best of a bad situation.

MaryAnn suggested that Andrew help her company because she needed a website and a lot of technical support. It was meant to be temporary, but it seemed to work. So, Andrew gave up his 20-year career as an engineer and joined Hoffman Realty full time.

They had fun working together. They’re still having fun working together.

Establishing a Routine and Setting Boundaries

Working together has brought more harmony to their relationship. Everything feels more intimate and in sync. This has helped the business and the marriage run better.

Running a successful business also creates more of a connection within their professional and personal relationship. MaryAnn and Andrew understand each other’s bad days. They do what they can to help and support one another in the moment. Embracing and respecting their own individual strengths keeps both the relationship and the company on track.

These two also understand the importance of setting boundaries. Andrew did not come into MaryAnn’s company and try to change everything.

Andrew and MaryAnn quickly identified which parts of the business they would each be responsible for. This was easy, because their strengths are so different. MaryAnn is the people person and makes routine decisions about the business. Andrew handles the technology and the high level decisions and everything related to their marketing systems and processes.

In 20 years of working together, they haven’t run into problems, and it’s mostly due to those clear boundaries.

Your company’s organizational chart is more important than ever when you’re working together as a husband and wife team. Even if you’re the only two people in the company, you need to establish who is responsible for each box on that org chart. And, you need to make sure you’re not both in the same box.

That’s what leads to problems.

Remember our recent podcast with Melissa Prandi? She talked about putting together a great team and urged us to make sure we hire people with different strengths. At Hoffman Realty, Andrew and MaryAnn value the separate things that they each do best.

When you decide to work with a spouse or a partner, make it a priority to identify which jobs you are each responsible for. Resist the urge to slide over into a box that does not reflect your best strengths.

What if you have the same strengths and weaknesses at your spouse? In that case, reconsider the wisdom of working together. Or, be prepared to hire people who will fill in the missing blanks.

Do They Spend Too Much Time Together?

Love your spouse, but can’t wait to leave for work in the morning?

Then, building a business together isn’t for you.

But, you can work together without being together 24/7. Some people struggle with this, but MaryAnn and Andrew have their own interests and their own identities.

MaryAnn and Andrew think it’s fun to be together. They like laughing about work things at home. They enjoy opening a bottle of wine wen necessary to talk about challenges or issues that are happening at the office.

Andrew loves sports and can often be found cheering his team at football games or watching ice hockey at home. MaryAnn stays busy with friends and her children. They don’t see each other all day long.

You won’t want to be together all the time. MaryAnn and Andrew have managed not to bring work home unless they want to work on something together. They respect each other’s private time and passions.

Time Management and Work/Life Balance

Working together has improved their relationship by helping MaryAnn and Andrew to balance their time better. When she was running her business and Andrew was working as an engineer, it would baffle him when she took work calls on the weekend or agreed to meet owners as soon as they called. He understands the urgency now that he’s part of the business and experienced in the industry.

When they had separate careers, it was difficult to understand each other’s challenges and struggles. They understand each other much better now, and that has helped them professionally as well as romantically.

They can also be as flexible as they want with their schedules. Sometimes they’ll take a few days off where they check their emails and handle urgent business early in the day and then spend time bike riding or swimming.

When One Manages the Other

In the beginning, MaryAnn had to manage Andrew. He was new to this field, and had a lot to learn. She was patient and she never criticized or chastised him publicly. This has been a good example for how they treat their employees as well.

You want to give feedback, even negative feedback, without sounding accusatory. If you can give each other some structured feedback that doesn’t blame or point the finger at one party, you’ll have a much easier time resolving difficult situations. It works well with employees, too. They can understand things from many different sides and attack a problem without feeling defensive.

MaryAnn studied psychology and she always recommends that you say:

“When you do ______, I feel _______.”

People you disagree with aren’t necessarily doing something wrong. They may just do things differently.

Financial Issues Need Attention

One of Andrew’s major concerns when going into business with his wife was financial security. When you both work in the same industry, you are both in danger of the financial impacts of industry downturns.

This happened in the U.S. and around the world between 2007 and 2009 when the real estate markets became unstable. Andrew and MaryAnn had a bit of money saved after they built a house and sold it, but they were worried and operated a lean business during those years.

When you work together, there is no income diversity. You cannot rely on the other’s salary when your own business isn’t doing well. This is a calculated risk.

This risk became real in 2017, when it looked like Tampa was going to sustain a direct hit from Hurricane Irma as a category 5 storm. A lot of property managers in Tampa were wondering if they would be out of business after that hurricane. When both you and your spouse are property managers, you need to have a plan in place for how you will support your family and your business.

Things to Consider Before you Work Together

Andrew and MaryAnn have a list of things for you to think about if you’re planning to go into business with your spouse:

  • Do you get along now?
  • Do you enjoy working long hours?
  • Are you ready to hire more people?
  • Do you have insurance?
  • Are you financially secured for this risk?

You have to have a good relationship already. If you don’t, this isn’t going to fix your relationship.

Andrew suggests giving it a try before you dive right in. He helped out in the business while he was still looking for other work. So try it out if you can. Have a backup plan if it turns out you’re not meant to do this together.

Think about the long term and plan financially.

MaryAnn recommends having enough money saved to get through at least two years of an industry downturn. When they suffered through the slow period, they wanted to preserve the business. They cared about paying their employees even when business was lacking. Make sure you’re in a strong position personally and as a company.

Making a Family Business Attractive to Owners

Another benefit to working together is that rental property owners love the idea of working with a family business.

They feel better about handing over their largest asset when the property managers are local and married. This type of business is far more attractive than a large corporate firm. At least that’s what customers tell Andrew and MaryAnn.

Most owners know that a family business is going to care about their reputation within the community. When Hoffman Realty selects vendors, they always look for mom and pop businesses instead of huge companies where the customer seems to matter less.

While Andrew is often the face that potential owners see in the blogs and marketing videos created by Hoffman Realty, they are moving to a new, larger space and the plan is to have MaryAnn more visible as well. They also want to have their employees contribute to future blogs and marketing materials.

If you have any questions about how to work with your spouse or run a successful business while maintaining a successful marriage, these two are the people to speak with. You can contact them at Hoffman Realty.

Thanks for joining us. Be sure to contact us at Fourandhalf if you have any questions about growing and marketing your property management business.