Neurologist Amrik Singh Chattha makes no bones about it. When it comes to the business side of their Wierton, West Virginia, medical practice, his wife, psychiatrist Jaswinder Kaur Chattha, has the final say. "I knew my wife would be a great business partner because she is very organized and detail-oriented," says Amrik. "I gave her complete control of the operations and have not looked back since." Jaswinder manages the office and staffing issues, as well as the bookkeeping, while Amrik deals with insurance companies, lawyers, and collections.
Both 67 years old, the Chatthas have been in practice together for 30 years. They first met 43 years ago when their families wanted to see if they would make a good marriage match. A good match indeed. After finishing their studies, the duo decided to open a practice together because "our professional careers had a complementary component, and we believed we could succeed since we knew our business partner pretty well," says Jaswinder. But it's their complementary personalities that really make the business work, she says. "My husband is very open and trusting of people until they prove him wrong. I, on the other hand, require people to earn my trust before I let my guard down. We sort of have a yin/yang approach to dealing with people."
Defined business roles have helped the Chatthas avoid any confusion over their responsibilities in the workplace. But two Chatthas in one office isn't always easy for the patients. "Our patients will sometimes get confused and book appointments with the wrong Dr.Chattha," says Amrik.
When we asked couples for their best business advice, the tips poured in. Here are some of our favorites.
"[You] don't need to come home and fight over whose turn it is to fold the laundry or mow the lawn. Hire as much help as you can. It may require some belt-tightening, but your sanity, and your marriage, are worth it."
“Treat each other the same way other employees are treated.”
“Leave some things to talk about at the end of the day. when you don’t work together, there’s something magical about seeing each other after being away from each other for 10 hours. We missed that … but learned to ‘save’ things to talk about.”
“Have an exit strategy agreed to in advance in case it doesn’t work out. Agree that the marriage comes first, not the business.”
One full day a week “we don’t talk business at all, and try to keep each other in check, as tempting as it is to ‘debrief’ about the week’s hottest personnel or client travails. The fact that we work together and have a family together makes life one interminable mobius strip, unless we structure it such that it doesn’t become one steaming morass of problem-solving.”
“Have a date with just the two of you regularly scheduled. Find a place to remind each other why you got into this pickle in the first place.”