Shortly after my wife Rina and I met, we decided to go into business together. Our company Philip Stein, sells luxury watches that emit special frequencies designed to lower the stress of the wearer. Rina has a background in the watch retail industry and I have a degree in business, so it seemed like a perfect plan. But working together wasn’t as easy as we’d thought.We butted heads at almost every opportunity. I am a very disciplined and analytical decision maker, whereas Rina is more emotional and intuitive. When we started out in 2003, we had just three employees, so the time lost in disagreement wasn’t such a big deal. But when our watch was featured on “Oprah” and our product received huge national exposure, we knew we had to find a more effective way of working together if we were going to succeed on a larger scale — and stay married.
Division of labour
After our product made it onto “Oprah” for the second time in 2005, we made plans to expand the company internationally. We used the opportunity to redraw our company responsibilities.
With my background in business, I take on the task of sizing up potential distributors’ business models and the network of retailers they have at their disposal. Rina’s background in the watch industry gives her an edge when it comes to developing our product. She is in charge of inventory, finances, product development, and employee management. I do most of the travelling, meet with existing and potential distributors, deal with the media and work on expanding our overall business. I am also in charge of branding and marketing.
No matter how much you love someone, you can’t spend 100% of your time together, or you’ll go crazy. The fact that I take solo business trips once or twice a week gives us a much-needed breather from each other. I know Rina would agree.
Although we don’t do everything together, we still work as a team. Any time we are making a big decision about a distributor, for example, I’ll choose the one I think is best, and then introduce my contact to Rina. She’s an excellent judge of character, and can often tell immediately if the relationship is going to be successful based on first impressions. On the one occasion when I went with a distributor against her judgment, it turned out badly.
In order for our business relationship to work, we’ve got to put our marriage and family life first. And spending time together at work doesn’t count towards family time.
One of the beautiful things about working with your spouse is that board meetings can happen over a home-cooked meal. But I don’t want every family dinner turning into a discussion about business. So unless it’s pre-planned, we don’t discuss work at home. On weekends, our rule is no using computers or cell phones. It helps us put work out of our minds so we can transition completely into family time.
My wife, our nine-year-old son, and I recently moved to Zurich, Switzerland, where we’ve opened our international headquarters. The move has let us spend quality time together as a family away from the distractions of shopping malls — which are all closed on the weekends — and spend more time outdoors. As a result, when it comes to our business partnership, Rina and I are more relaxed and work together more efficiently.
A year into the business, we were making about $5 million in annual revenue. Since then our product has received significant media exposure, which has helped us become an international brand grow our sales to more than $30 million. And through it all, I’m happy to say that Rina and I still enjoy working together.
Philip Stein’s watches have been featured on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” three times. Winfrey originally learned about the watches through her friend Madonna, who gave her one as a gift in 2003.
– As told to Harper Willis
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