Annemarie and I found, over the years, that working together presented many unique rewards and challenges.   In our household, major family decisions were always determined by the mutual consent of both Annemarie and me and, sometimes, our children, as a result of family discussions.  Even when we had differences of opinion, we tried to make compromises that left both of us feeling that we are still both in control.

Of course, the fact that I operate USFSB as the primary decision maker runs counter to the way Annemarie and I run our family with its give and take process of decision making.   Certainly, I found it very helpful to obtain Annemarie’s opinions and to discuss the operation of the business in great detail and at great length with her; however, in the final analysis, I took the responsibility for making most of the decisions.   Even though Annemarie understood and tacitly agreed with my approach, it inevitably, on occasion, became the source of friction and turmoil between us which, at times, also spilled over into our family life.

Annemarie’s natural inclination is to want to share in the decision making process.   At times, I found it difficult to give Annemarie this level of control while, at the same time, trying to maintain my status as the primary decision maker at USFSB.   This proved to be a fine line that Annemarie and I tried not to cross, almost, on a daily basis.

Another source of conflict between Annemarie and me is our temperament and the nature of our world view.    I tend to be a result orientated, type “A” personality with little patience for hand holding and small talk.  Whereas, Annemarie is more calm and laid back and more concerned about relationships and nurturing the process than just the results.

I tend to look at everything in the office as merely the means to an end, that being the success of the business.  Annemarie, on the other hand, tends to believe that how we arrive at that end is just as important as the end itself.   She wants the process to be fair and to accommodate the personal needs of the employees.   She is more apt to give time off and more likely to forgive mistakes.  Over time, I believe we have made a good effort to meet each other in the middle on these issues.  Annemarie has become more of a businesswoman and, as she would say, I have become more of a human being.



             By 1998, our oldest boys were in high school and they were helpful with driving themselves and their younger brother and sister, when needed.  We were working hard at the office to improve the business and were doing a good job at it.  I was working more hours than at my previous job plus I was traveling, so while Julia was in elementary school and middle school, I wasn’t around as much as when the boys were that age.  In the meantime, I can remember times that each of our children would say “do you always have to talk about work?”  It was true.  We spent a lot of time talking about our business plans, strategies and staff. 

             As Joe mentioned, one time, when we were visiting Matthew in Philadelphia on a good four hour ride, Julia was in the back seat and after about two hours of office talk, she finally said, “Please, can you two stop talking about the office for the rest of the trip?”  We agreed, but a few minutes later we went right back to it.  I think our children have come to realize that being a business owner, you almost never stop working. 

             Since Julia was only 8 years old when I started working at USFSB, and I was working longer hours and traveling, I always worried that Julia was ‘short-changed’ because I was less involved in her elementary school activities than I was with the boys.  I tried to make up for it by being involved in her other activities, like travel soccer.  We always made time for family trips with the boys when they played travel soccer and we continued to do this for Julia.  Having this business made it possible for us to sponsor each of their teams, at times, so it gave them more reason to be proud of being part of a family business whose name was part of their activities. 

             For a few summers in a row, beginning in 1997, we really made an effort to create more family time and as a family, we took 3 weeks each summer on trips to California, Italy, England, Scotland and France.  This traveling was very enriching for our children and to this day, they all love to travel whenever they have the opportunity. 

            Another reason for so much conversation at home was that I did not want to discuss some things in the office.  Some of those things included the interaction of the employees and also topics that Joe and I disagreed upon.  I never wanted to make it appear in the office that we ‘argued’.  If we did disagree on something, it was easier for me to drop the conversation in the office and continue it at home, so that we could present a united front in the office. 



Annemarie’s reluctance to be at USFSB took a long time to dissipate and there were times that I felt she was acting out and expressing her desire to be somewhere, anywhere, else.  There were times when she would be late to work for no apparent reason or would take days off for what I believed were frivolous excuses.   I would get frustrated and eventually confront her at which time she would become indignant and defensive.   It was a no win situation for both of us.   Only once did she openly express her feelings that she did not like being at USFSB or the way I was treating her.

Usually, our frustration was not so dramatic and was more about the fact that the business was taking over our entire lives.   There was no escape!

When I practiced law, I tried very hard to keep my business/professional life separate from my home life.  I did not want it to intrude on my family and my quality time with my children.

USFSB was an entirely different story.   First, there was the on-going debate (debate is a much better word than argument) of whether or not Annemarie could and would join me at USFSB.   Then there was the debate of whether or not Annemarie could or would stay with me at USFSB.  Then, finally, the debate of whether or not Annemarie could or would ever enjoy being with me at USFSB.

We also had to deal with the practical problems of spending so much time together and then trying to create a clear separation between our workday and our family life.   This was further complicated by the fact that it was very easy to find ourselves bringing the office home with us and discussing work during family time.  The lines that separated these aspects of our lives became blurred.   Not only were we together all the time, we seemed to be able to interject USFSB into almost any topic of conversation and any activity.   The worst part of that is the impact it had on our children, particularly, our daughter who was only eight years old when USFSB became part of our family.

Annemarie and I have always made time for each other and our children; however, we were learning that there can be too much of a good thing.   Annemarie and I were, essentially, together every day all day which, of course, is way too much togetherness for any sane person to handle.   Annemarie and I found that spending so much time together was placing a fair amount of stress on our marriage.  Even though we are a relatively compatible couple (after 31 years we better be) we still needed some time to ourselves to be able to pursue our own interests.  We have developed some separate activities, particularly, as our children got older and needed us less; however, it still is very hard to do when you are both working and living together.

I remember one time when we were traveling in the car with our daughter, she asked us not to talk about the office for a while and we agreed.   As hard as we tried, we fell right into a discussion about something at the office, within minutes, much to the consternation of our daughter.  It seemed that USFSB was with us where ever we went whether we liked it or not.

There is also the problem of bringing family and personal issues to the office.  Like any couple, there have been times when Annemarie and I would have personal disagreements at home (how anyone could disagree with me I will never understand) and they would spill over into the office.   As you might imagine, we found it very difficult to separate our personal relationship with our business relationship.   This, I am sure, caused some discomfort for our employees and we tried to make sure it did not happen very often.

Despite all of the difficulties we have encountered, the benefits we have enjoyed by working with and relying on someone whom you can trust without question and who you know shares the same aspirations and goals has far outweighed any of the problems.

Come back on Friday to hear Annemarie’s side of the story!