One of the most endearing stories of our Married to Business community is the interview of Leroy and Gaynelle, a couple who have been in business together for 48 years.
Yes, you read that right.
They bought a small printing company in 1970 and have run it together for all those years. With a small group of employees, they have served their small community in the Southwest United States and worked side-by-side, living through lean and prosperous years.
And this isn’t even the first business they owned together.
(In full disclosure, these two are Alowetta’s parents. They bought this business when she was in high school, and there is a joke among all the children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren that everyone has to work at The Print Shop at some point in their lives.)
(Also, in full disclosure. It’s weird to interview your parents.)
They shared some great stories about getting the printing business.
Leroy: I went into this print shop to order some business cards. The older woman behind the counter couldn’t tell me when they might be ready because her husband was ill. I popped off and said she could just sell me the business and I’d print my own cards. Well, he (the business owner) showed up to my house that night and we hammered out an agreement to buy. And with that – we owned a print shop.
Over the years, they worked to build the business amid adversity. In the beginning, Gaynelle kept a full-time job during the day, while doing the bookkeeping, ordering and other tasks in the evenings. Leroy learned how to run printing equipment and began calling on local businesses to sell them printing.
There were hardly any days or nights that they weren’t working. With children still at home, they managed with getting kids to school, games and other activities, while keeping the business going and growing.
In early 1978, when they were just beginning to finally see some progress, a fire devastated their business (along with other businesses and an entire city block). There was literally nothing left except a couple of charred pieces of equipment. No records, no supplies, nothing.
Did they give up? No, they simply took the insurance money they had, started again and have been selling and printing ever since. Their business has had years where several additional people were employed, and years when only family members working in the business (see note above about all those children, grandchildren, etc).
Even in their 80s now, they both still work in the business, albeit fewer hours. Their daughter runs most of the operations now, but Leroy and Gaynelle still make daily decisions about the business.
We ask them what are some things they wish they had known before they started their business together.
Leroy: I wish I had known more about the printing business. But given that, sales, marketing, and business savvy are more important than specific business knowledge or skills. Tasks can be learned, but you have to know how to sell to people if you want to stay in business.
Gaynelle: I wish I had been more outgoing. I have never been comfortable working with the public, which is why I always want to just do the paperwork and bookkeeping and leave the public face of the business to him.
When we asked about how they communicated with each other regarding their business and personal relationship, they said they always set high standards for themselves but left room for improvement and grace for each other. They worked to not show their anger or disagreements to other employees but also said it is very difficult to separate your personal life and your business life together. It just all runs together.
Also, Leroy and Gaynelle have always had a shared vision for their lives together, and a shared plan for their work. They are dedicated to their faith, both spiritually and with one another.
With defined roles and specific tasks, they have managed to keep their business thriving for decades.
That is something Marc and Alowetta hope they can do also!