Working and living together



Felton and Tae Mitchell have been working side by side at their downtown Augusta teriyaki restaurant for one-third of their 30-year marriage.

Felton Mitchell, who has a degree in business management and has owned several businesses, handles buying for Silla Cafe at 855 Broad St. His wife does most of the cooking.

The arrangement works because they have separate responsibilities, Felton Mitchell said.

"Everybody's got to know their job. I don't interfere with her job, and she doesn't interfere with my job," he said.

That goes at home, too, which she runs.

Being married and working together can have its challenges, but couples make it work by having designated responsibilities, keeping their personal and business lives separate and knowing they're not always going to agree.

One of the benefits: Both spouses are equally committed to the business, said Jeremy Hertza, a neuropsychologist and the director of behavioral medicine at Walton Rehabilitation Health System.

"You're working with a loved one or family member, assuming that there's a good amount of trust there, the person is already invested into the bigger picture and your same vision, which is something you always worry about with employees," Hertza said.

On the other hand, having a spouse as a co-worker can create difficulty with boundaries, such as "being able to leave work at work" and not having the stresses of work carry over into your personal life.

Also, relatives will ask "things they would never ask of their boss," such as money, Hertza expalined.

It's important to maintain clear levels of responsibility, he said. The Mitchells have found this to be true.

Felton Mitchell will, when needed, assist with the cooking.

He said that he sometimes takes the lead with business decisions and doesn't tell his wife and three daughters, who also work at the restaurant, until later because his years of business experience allow him "to see the bigger picture."

For instance, he launched the restaurant's Super Tuesday promotion on his own, which gives customers a coupon for 20 percent off a purchase the next Tuesday.

"I didn't want to tell them because they were going to say no. But now she's happy that I did it because she sees that it's working. Sometimes you have to be bold and go out on your own and make decisions. I'm looking further down the road than she's looking. She's looking at today, and I'm looking at a year from now," Felton Mitchell said.

Tae Mitchell said that her husband also works at the post office, but he always makes time to help her at the restaurant.

"He's a really busy man. He sacrifices a lot for our business. Sometimes we argue and we have different ideas, but he usually has a lot of good ideas," she said.

KYLE AND DENNY GARDNER have worked together at Riverfront Collision Center for five years. Denny Gardner is owner, and his wife works as the office manager. They've been married for 16 years and have three children.

Though they work in the same building with their 17 employees in Evans, they rarely cross paths during the day because they have different duties. Kyle Gardner handles payables and receivables; her husband oversees the daily operations at the Evans and Sand Bar Ferry Road locations.

Before the downturn in the economy, the couple ate lunch together in the break room every day. As they had to streamline their staff, their work schedules became more hectic. Business is starting to pick up again, Kyle Gardner said.

Because their "worlds run in the same circle," it's challenging when a child is sick or there are school functions to attend, Denny Gardner said. There are benefits, though.

"Taking your work home is not good, but you can do some things at home together," he said. "You can discuss stuff at dinner or if you're sitting there relaxing. You can casually talk about an issue or make a decision about something without getting interrupted."

They also trust each other with money and other business matters, which is essential in business, Kyle Gardner said.

"I trust his judgment and knowledge about the business. We don't always agree, but I think that's part of life," she said.

MARY AND KEITH HENDRY have been in business together for 12 years at Georgia Flag and Pennant in Evans. A family friend owned a similar business in Florida and gave them an opportunity to open a franchise in Georgia.

The Hendrys install flag poles, set up displays and hang flags and banners all over Georgia and South Carolina for neighborhoods, commercial businesses, government organizations and schools.

They rely on each other because they don't have employees. Mary Hendry handles the clerical duties, and her husband does installations and repairs.

"It's a challenge, but it's OK. If there's ever a heat of the moment, you walk away from each other, think about it and then talk to each other. But there's never any problems," Mary Hendry said.

They keep their work and home lives separate. Having their own business allows them to attend their son's events. Overall, working together is advantageous, Mary Hendry said.

"It's a good thing. It kind of brings you closer together," she said.

BOB AND BETTY KENDRA, who have been married for 21 years, have worked together at Kendra Financial Group/New York Life at 4246 Washington Road in Evans for eight years. Bob Kendra started the business 11 years ago, and his wife decided to leave her corporate job to join him.

She had worked for 20 years in manufacturing management and was on a successful career path, but she believed in her husband's mission to make a difference in people's lives and wanted to have more time for her children.

The financial service professionals work with individuals and small businesses to develop a comprehensive financial plan. They have individual strengths and work in those areas to improve efficiency.

"Bob is an excellent prospector. He is very, very good at keeping our name out in front of the public. He doesn't mind getting out and cold calling, and he's very assertive in that area. That is not my strength," Betty Kendra said. "I, on the other hand, come with a long background in management and administration, so I pretty much handle all of the corporate duties, bill paying and bookkeeping. I'm more the analytical half of the equation."

They work in the same office building 50 percent of the time -- Betty Kendra sometimes works from home -- but they're so busy they usually don't have time to talk about personal matters at work. They have good days and bad days together in business, but mostly good, she said.

"We don't agree on everything, but we have to work it out and take the best avenue," Bob Kendra said. "Whether you're a husband and wife doing business together or two individuals doing business together, you're never going to agree on everything."

The Kendras have found a work-life balance and are happy working together.

"We're partners in everything. In our marriage, in our family with our children and in business. It works for us," Betty Kendra said.

Tips for working with your spouse

- Sit down and outline responsibilities.

- Establish rules before you start working together.

- If you want to discuss work at home, set aside a specific time each week, maybe for one hour, which is the only time you will talk about work outside the office.

Source: Jeremy Hertza, director of behavioral medicine at Walton Rehabilitation Health System