Whitehorse couple Marko and Meghan Marjanovic had been brewing beer at home for 10 years when they decided, in 2014, to build a business out of their personal passion. They found a venue, got a license from the city, and ordered the equipment they’d need for commercial production from all the best vendors. The doors swung open at their business, Winterlong Brewing Co., in the spring of 2015. It has been growing ever since, and the Marjanovics have created a recipe for success. Moreover, they’ve done so while building a successful marriage. That’s no small feat. As any entrepreneur will tell you, managing relationships with business partners presents challenges—all the more so when your partner in your company is also your partner in life. But the Marjanovics make it work. Here, they offer their insights on working with your spouse and the benefits and challenges that arise when the line between work life and home life is so very slender.
UHB: You two were high school sweethearts, is that correct?
Marko: I sat behind Meghan in Grade 9. That’s when I first noticed her, and we started dating halfway through Grade 11. We’ve been together for 19 years now.
How has running this business impacted your marriage, and how has your marriage impacted the business?
Marko: It’s a lot easier to coordinate things like taking our kid to daycare, you know, planning things when we both have the flexibility and the schedule together or we can kind of balance each other’s workload. We’re together all the time, which can be a bit much, but then it also means since we’re together during the day, all day, if one of us wants to go out and go for a hike on the weekend and the other one’s going to be taking care of our three-year-old then it’s not as big a deal because we spend so much time together. Taking a break to go do something fun, even if it’s not together, is still an easy thing to do.
Meghan: Even when we’re working, we get quality time. You know, it just flows so seamlessly, our relationship and our business. It’s so intertwined now that it’s like a part of us. The brewery is just a part of everything.
How hard is it to maintain a work-life balance and not bring all the problems of the brewery home with you?
Marko: That’s the obvious challenge. We both work the same job and when we get home, you know, that’s usually the time we’re trying to make decisions. But I think we’ve gotten really good at it over the years. If we’re at home, we’re sitting down in the evening having a beer, chatting about a new recipe or something. If it’s not fun or if it’s not going anywhere, we can easily recognize that and we just drop the subject and go watch Stranger Things. Sometimes it’s fun to bring it home, sit in the evening and discuss fun ideas. But if it’s not fun we just say let’s talk at the office tomorrow over coffee. We’ve been doing that for the last few years and I think we’re getting better and better at that for sure.
Meghan: When someone plays devil’s advocate too much, then we know, let’s drop the subject and pick it up later.
Disagreements happen in a marriage, but also between business partners. Are there any lessons that you’ve brought over from your relationship to your business when those inevitable disagreements come up?
Marko: Having disagreements about work at home is the same as having a disagreement about what are we having for dinner tonight, or are we going camping this weekend. We literally take the same approach. As Meghan said, if we’re butting heads or playing devil’s advocate too much, we know we’re not approaching it the right way. We just sit on it for a minute or overnight, come back the next day and take a professional approach to see the problem from both points of view before jumping on something.
Meghan: Definitely. That’s helped our decision-making process in so many things. Deciding whether to start canning our beer, I remember, was kind of a big decision but something we always kept coming back to. Marko was maybe more for it and I was a bit hesitant at first. There’s always a bit of give-and-take in that sense. Some things, I’m gung ho and Marko’s like, ‘no we’re not doing that.’ But over time we kind of soften to each other’s ideas and come around. We just discuss them over and over and over again. That’s what I love about our situation.
Marko: We don’t have to wait for another business partner who may or may not be...
Meghan: ...In the office...
Marko: ...We can chat anytime and, as Meghan said, it’s kind of like the same balance you get in marriage. If I have an idea that I’m gung ho about, Meghan might see it from another perspective. She’ll be the balance on that decision and vice versa. And again, we don’t have to wait to meet. We’re seeing each other 24/7. We can bring up the idea and chat without having to wait.
Any advice you would offer to anyone thinking of starting a business with his or her spouse or family member?
Meghan: I guess, just make sure you guys know your decision-making process and how you will work together.
Marko: Yeah, it’s like your day-to-day things. If you have a hard time making decisions together and working together, it’s not going to just come easy when you start a business. It’s probably going to be harder. You have to make sure you’re able to adapt and work together at home and you have to make sure that you’re able to sort of leave work at work as necessary. Otherwise, it will just be overwhelming and your life will be crazy. It’s going to be too chaotic.