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Ask the Expert—How to Work With Your Spouse

Being married takes work - but what if you work with your spouse, too? Ronnie and Lamar Tyler have been doing that for 10 years now. They started a decade ago and they joined us at ICON to talk about how they do that. If you’re thinking, “But how do they do that?” Well, you’re not alone.

So what does it take to run a business with your spouse? According to Ronnie and Lamar, it comes down to support, having appreciation for your spouse, mutual respect, and trust. Basically, the things you need for a great marriage are things you need to succeed in business together, too. Tune in to hear how Ronnie and Lamar actually make it work.

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Dusey Van Dusen: Hello, listeners. This is Dusey Van Dusen, and I am joined here by Ellis, as always, who’s here.

Ellis Friedman: As always. Hi!

Dusey Van Dusen: [Laughter] And, for this episode of The Small Business Success Podcast, we are talking to Lamar and Ronnie Tyler. How’s it goin’, guys?

Ronnie Tyler: Hi!

Lamar Tyler: It’s goin’ great. Thanks for having us.

Dusey Van Dusen: And we are gonna have them talk a little bit about, you heard from Lamar a few episodes ago, and we're gonna have them talk about what it’s like to work together, you know, with family—specifically as a married couple. That’s where, I think, they have the most experience, but just working with family in general as well.

So maybe you guys can tell us a little bit about your background, and you know, what you guys do.

Lamar Tyler: Sure. Well, again, we're Lamar and Ronnie Tyler. We are the founders, our company is Tyler New Media, but 10 years ago—it’s been 10 years; right, Ronnie?

Ronnie Tyler: This year, 10 years.

Lamar Tyler: Ten years ago, we started a small blog in the corner of our bedroom called, to support and provide positive images of marriage in the African-American community.


And, from that blog, it really has grown into a business. So now we have e-books and audio books and a membership site and online courses and live events. We do a cruise every year. We're doing our third cruise this year, sold out. I mean, just an amazing business now with, I think we've sold products in over 22 countries—

Dusey Van Dusen: Wow!

Lamar Tyler: - across the world. But the most interesting thing has been working together as husband and wife.

Ronnie Tyler: Yes.

Dusey Van Dusen: [Laughter]

Lamar Tyler: Wouldn’t you say, Ronnie?

Ronnie Tyler: That has been very interesting, to say the least. [Laughter]

Lamar Tyler: [Laughter]

Ellis Friedman: So what does interesting mean?

Ronnie Tyler: Um, I think it’s one of the best experiences, you know? We didn't work together before when we were in corporate America, and to really, to be able to work together with your spouse and to just have each other’s back, to be able to work on a common vision and goal for the family, it’s something that you really can’t describe.


But it goes well if you have certain things in place, and we have those things in place. And so, I would say it’s been just an amazing experience, really.

Dusey Van Dusen: That’s fantastic. So, what are—I'm curious what some of the perceptions are when somebody comes and asks you, since I mean, you guys talk about marriages and relationships so much, but also, you know, this working relationship. I'm curious what the most common things are that people come to you and say, “Gosh, isn’t that really hard because of whatever.”

Like, what are the things that you hear all the time?

Lamar Tyler: Well, I think the main thing we hear is, “Wow, you work with your spouse all day, every day.” That’s probably the thing we hear—

Ronnie Tyler: “How can you do that?”

Lamar Tyler: - “How can you do that?” Like, that’s pretty much it. They don’t really say, “How does that work? How can you”—they're just like, “Wow.”

Dusey Van Dusen: [Laughter] Yeah. They're just like—

Lamar Tyler: It’s just shock and awe, right? The first time it’s like a shock.

Dusey Van Dusen: - “There’s no way I could do that,” is what they're saying. [Laughter]

Ronnie Tyler: Yes.

Lamar Tyler: Exactly.

Ronnie Tyler: And they—sometimes they say it in front of their spouse, like, “There’s no way I can do that.”

Lamar Tyler: And the spouse agrees—the spouse is [Cross talk].

Ronnie Tyler: And they're just like, “You got that right!” You know?

Dusey Van Dusen: [Laughter]

Ronnie Tyler: And so—or they say, “Um, I have this idea, I'm passionate about something, and I cannot get my spouse on board.”


Lamar Tyler: Yes.

Dusey Van Dusen: Hmm.

Ronnie Tyler: So those are the two most common things. Either they're like, “I can’t imagine working with my spouse” or, “I really desire to work with my spouse, I really want my spouse on board, or just at least supporting my endeavors” and they can’t get them on board. And so those are the two most common questions, I would say.

Lamar Tyler: I would agree. And the thing is, we see so many couples who are dynamic, who have great skill sets, great backgrounds, great ideas—but they just can’t bring it together.

Dusey Van Dusen: Okay.

Lamar Tyler: And what we try to really do is work with those couples to just share with them and give them ideas about different ways they can support each other through the business. Because if they can come together, like Ronnie said, with a shared vision, a shared goal for their family, they'll see a definite increase in the business. And when I'm talking about increase, I'm not talking about 2 times or even a 10x, I'm talking about exponential increase when it’s those two people together with that common goal, and they know they can trust each other, they know they have each other’s back and they know they're working towards taking themselves, their business, and their family to another level.


Ronnie Tyler: Right.

Dusey Van Dusen: Wow.

Ronnie Tyler: And also, couples need to realize that working together, it’s relative, right? It’s not a one size fits all. You can’t look at other couples and say, “Look at how they work together. Man, I wish we could do that.” Because you don’t know what’s goin’ on behind the scenes, and also, you don’t know what you already have at home in your house.

Dusey Van Dusen: Mm-hmm.

Ronnie Tyler: So working together could mean that you're just supporting your spouse. You don’t necessarily have to have your hands in the business to support the business. It could be a financial support, it could be holding it down at home so that your spouse can focus on the business.

And so when people start to take a step back and to really look at the contribution of their space and to see, “Wow, my spouse is already supporting me. I'm trying to put pressure on them in ways that maybe I shouldn’t be putting pressure on them,” then they begin to see—well, things are not so bad for us. And yeah, I do have the support, and maybe I can do this.

But a lot of people do this whole comparison thing where they're comparing themselves to other couples, and they don’t need to do that.


Dusey Van Dusen: Mm-hmm. Right.

Ronnie Tyler: They need to take a step back and say, “Well, what works for us as a couple?” And it may not be beneficial for your spouse to necessarily be inside the office with you, but how is your spouse holding it down at home so that you can work 10, 12, 14 hours as an entrepreneur? You're still a couple in business, because that spouse is supporting you with time, financially, just encouragement and things of that nature.

Lamar Tyler: Support—yeah, yeah. And I think what Ronnie talks about is important, because a lot of people see us and they say, “Well, I wanna work with my spouse,” and they're thinking about the two of them being on stage talking together.

Dusey Van Dusen: Right. [Laughter]

Lamar Tyler: Like Ronnie said, the fact that maybe you can travel for a week to go close contracts, to attend an ICON event or something like that while your spouse is home making sure everything’s taken care of, making sure, you know, bills are being paid and making sure that you don’t have to worry about the kids. That’s all support. That’s all a form of support in getting on board. Or maybe even realizing the fact that, hey, my spouse doesn’t wanna be in the limelight. Maybe they're in the back office doing the books, or maybe they're in the back office taking care of projects or doing the paperwork.


So, like Ronnie said, it just looks different for each couple. You really have to assess what your strengths and weaknesses are and then build around that.

Dusey Van Dusen: So, would you say—tell me if I'm reading this right—that if somebody came to you, have you ever had anybody say, “Hey, you know, I wanna work more with my spouse” or, “I think we need to work together,” it doesn’t sound like you would ever just say, “Oh, with you two? No, it’s not gonna work.”

Lamar Tyler: [Laughter]

Dusey Van Dusen: It’s really—[Laughter] it’s really a question of what does that look like in your relationship, right?

Lamar Tyler: Definitely. I would definitely say, “What does that look like?” And then, like I said, it would all start with, “What are your strengths and what are your weaknesses?”

Ronnie Tyler: Yes.

Lamar Tyler: And, when we have this conversation with couples, we start there. Like, “What are the things that I'm strong at? What are my weaknesses? What are things that Ronnie’s strong at, what are her weaknesses, and then how can we kinda cover for each other?”

And, with Ronnie and I, we're total opposites.

Dusey Van Dusen: [Laughter]

Lamar Tyler: So I'm more the creative, you know, freewheelin’—you let me loose on an expo hall, I'm buyin’ everything.

Ronnie Tyler: Yes.

Lamar Tyler: Every single thing.

Ronnie Tyler: Yes, yes.

Lamar Tyler: Because we need it if we wanna hit the next level.

Ronnie Tyler: I have to rein it in.


Lamar Tyler: But Ronnie’s the opposite. If you let her—like, she'll leave with nothing. So—

Ronnie Tyler: That’s right.

Lamar Tyler: - she kinda reins me in, and I kinda stretch her out. But that’s the, the—one of the reasons why this works well. But at the same time, I'm the creative, I'm the idea guy, and she’s the one that actually is the project manager that makes sure the ideas that we do agree on get executed.

Dusey Van Dusen: Yeah.

Lamar Tyler: So it’s really having an appreciation for your spouse. We always talk about, there are a few things that need to be in place, and we say the first is a couple’s code of conduct, and the other thing is, even when you're working with your spouse, it needs to be a set baseline of respect and understanding—okay, what are our roles in the business?

Ronnie Tyler: Mm-hmm.

Lamar Tyler: What are the things that, you know, you're gonna do, what are the things that I'm gonna do? How can we respect that those things will get done? How can we believe that, hey, Ronnie, even though she’s totally different from me, when she says she’s gonna do X, Y, and Z, I'm gonna step out of it. Even if she does it totally different than how I do it, I'm gonna trust that, hey, on Friday at 4:00, these things are gonna be done, even if she’s doing it her way and her way is totally different from mine.


Dusey Van Dusen: Right.

Lamar Tyler: And then she would look at me and say the same kinda thing and have the same kinda respect and trust as far as me and with that couple’s code of conduct, we also lay down, with couples, we want you to look and say, “Okay, what are the lines that we aren’t gonna cross?”

Ronnie Tyler: Mm-hmm.

Lamar Tyler: So that this doesn’t bleed into our marriage. We always say, what, a bad marriage can ruin a great business and a bad business can ruin a great marriage?

Ronnie Tyler: Yes—both.

Dusey Van Dusen: [Laughter]

Lamar Tyler: So you have to be very clear about drawing those lines in your relationship and those lines in your business.

Ellis Friedman: So what are some of those lines that you have in your couple’s code of conduct? Like, can you give us a couple examples?

Ronnie Tyler: Um, just always having respect for each other inside the home and outside of the home, right? So that’s definitely one of the lines that we don’t cross. We never disrespect each other in the workplace. And it’s pretty much the same rules that you have for at home. And so you want to have a level of respect for your spouse, and you want to do that especially when you start to bring on employees, because you want to make sure that they are also gonna have that same level of respect for your spouse within the workplace.


So, definitely respect. There is also trust. All of these things, really, are the foundations of a great marriage, and so they're also the foundations of a great business partnership. Who wants to go into business with someone that you can’t trust? Is your spouse trustworthy? Can you trust your spouse to do what they say they're going to do, or just trust them at the most basic level?

So if there are some things going on in the marriage where they're not being accountable for their roles and responsibilities at home, not being accountable as far as even being true to the marriage as far as infidelity or things like that—those things play a big part in the business partnership as well.

Dusey Van Dusen: Absolutely.

Ronnie Tyler: And so trust is a part of the couple’s code of conduct, and just accountability and saying and doing what you say you're going to do.

Dusey Van Dusen: Yeah. And you know, with that trust part, there is a time—I do a little bit of photography on the side, and my wife often helps me with that, just because it’s not my main business and I need some free help, right? [Laughter]


Ronnie Tyler: [Laughter]

Dusey Van Dusen: So—but when you talk about that trust, you know, it has me thinking of, she has come to help actually photograph a lot of weddings, and she'll still do it, but photographing people, like, isn’t her favorite thing, right?

So part of what you talked about earlier is, like, kind of finding our strengths and you know, she’s really good and passionate about, like, doing some macro photography and some of the more objected oriented stuff, right? So it’s trusting that, like—okay, you can go do that and I don’t have to look over your shoulder. Like, I trust that you're gonna do that and that you're gonna get that and come back. And, you know, I had to let go a little bit.

Lamar Tyler: Yes.

Dusey Van Dusen: And there is—we've been talking about having her doing some more of the editing, and for me, that’s even more—because like, I'm not even, I'm off at my normal, main job, you know? [Laughter] And like, she’s away and would, like, be editing, and I’d have to trust that that’s gonna happen, you know?

So maybe, I haven’t really quite taken that step yet.

Lamar Tyler: [Laughter]

Ronnie Tyler: Yes!

Dusey Van Dusen: I need to—I need to learn a little more trust, yeah. [Laughter]

Ronnie Tyler: Let go—just let go.

Lamar Tyler: We're here to support you—we're here to support you. [Laughter]

Dusey Van Dusen: Thank you. [Laughter]

Lamar Tyler: But, like Ronnie said, I think the thing that is unique about marriages, right, because a lot of, you know, like Ronnie said, what’s strong in your marriage—communication, trust, respect—is what’s strong in a business partnership.


But that difference is, if your spouse doesn’t feel like you live up to your word, you do what you say at home, then that can bleed into the business. And it doesn’t even have to be something as deep as infidelity. It can be the fact that, every time I ask you to take out the trash, you don’t do it.

Dusey Van Dusen: Don’t do it. [Laughter]

Lamar Tyler: Every time I ask you to, you know, clean up after yourself, you don’t do it. So if I can’t trust that you're gonna do those things on that level, how can I trust you to balance the books? How can I trust you to—you know, when you go somewhere and you say you won’t spend this amount of money, that you're gonna stay within budget, when you go to, you know—

Ronnie Tyler: ICON—

Lamar Tyler: - whatever box store or the electronics store—yeah.

Ronnie Tyler: - and you spend $25,000.00 on products.

Dusey Van Dusen: [Laughter]

Lamar Tyler: Yeah, you've got—you know, you're supposed to buy a $500.00 TV and you come home with a, you know, $1,400.00, 4K, 70 inch, so.

Dusey Van Dusen: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. So, I like this—you know, you're talking about the different ways that it can look to you and this idea of somebody supporting a business. So maybe you can speak a little more about, like, that.


Like, if that’s, it’s—I can see a spouse that, like, let’s say I'm the one that’s really wanting to drive on a certain business, maybe I want my spouse to do more with me in the business, or maybe I'm saying, I just, I need that support at home. Like, I don't know, what does that look like? Like, how do they—how do you make sure that both partners feel involved in the way that they need to feel involved when maybe one of them is the person that’s at home and the other one is the person that’s running the business?

Ronnie Tyler: I would say definitely communication is a key. So, just communicating, and also just setting the goals and the visions. It’s hard to communicate that to your spouse if you don’t really know what you're doing, where you're going and things of that nature. So really planning, having some set goals and visions, and then also just communicating that with your spouse frequently, every so often sitting down and saying, “This is what I've been doing, here are my results,” and things of that nature.

I think that the best way to get your spouse on board is to start showing some results—

Dusey Van Dusen: [Laughter]

Ronnie Tyler: - and to really get serious about your business.


So if it’s a dream that you have and you're always going to your spouse, “Hey, I wanna do this,” “Hey, I wanna do this,” but you don’t show any results, I think, get started, get to work, start to show some results, start to put some sweat equity into it. And I think, that way, your spouse will be able to get on board and really to see, “Hey, there’s something to this. Hey, I need to help out a little bit more.”

Lamar Tyler: Yeah.

Ronnie Tyler: I think a lot of times, people get frustrated, because their spouse is not on board, but they really haven’t put themselves out there enough. They haven’t put—sacrificed enough and put enough into it for their spouse to really take them seriously.

Lamar Tyler: And make some money. [Laughter]

Dusey Van Dusen: [Laughter] That’s what I was gonna say, is like—

Lamar Tyler: Like, making—

Dusey Van Dusen: - maybe you'll be on board if I can figure out this kitchen remodel, right? Like, if I [Laughter]—

Lamar Tyler: You know what? And so many times, when we'll—because we'll have somebody say, “You know, my husband, my wife just isn’t on board,” and that’s when I'll say, a lot of times, it results in you making money and showing them that, hey, this is a viable business.


Because like Ronnie mentioned, the thing about your spouse—your spouse has heard every weird dream you wake up with at 3 a.m. and say, “Okay, this is gonna make us millionaires. This is gonna take us to the top”—but then you never do anything with it, right?

So they've been there through that entire journey, so sometimes, you gotta—you know, not talk as much. Show results. Show that there are, you know, people that want to buy this product, they wanna buy this service, and then you have some proof that, “Hey, this is viable, these are the steps,” and then it’s a lot easier to get your husband or your wife on board with what you're doing.

Ronnie Tyler: Mm-hmm.

Dusey Van Dusen: Yeah.

Ellis Friedman: You kind of make it—you make communication sound so easy, which I think—

Lamar Tyler: [Laughter] Oh, it’s simple.

Ellis Friedman: - [Laughter].

Ronnie Tyler: Very simple.

Lamar Tyler: Just kidding, right?

Ellis Friedman: Most people in relationships would know it’s not. Do you have any tips for clear and just, like, honest communication, even when it’s a little bit difficult?

Ronnie Tyler: Yes, so definitely, communication is something that people don’t necessarily come into the relationship really knowing how to communicate with their spouse. Because oftentimes—and they don’t even realize it—that the examples that they saw growing up were not very good examples. They could’ve been very dysfunctional, and they [Laughter] just didn't realize it.


Um, and so even with just couples outside of business, we say, you know, “Practice communication, get some tools, read some books, and really practice and work at your communication, so be intentional about that.” Plan. Have sessions and meetings and not just like, everything is just, like, last minute, or you're just bringing things up while you're cooking and things of that nature, but really—

Lamar Tyler: In the middle of the game. [Laughter]

Ronnie Tyler: - in the middle of the game.

Lamar Tyler: I don’t wanna talk about this in the middle of the game. [Laughter]

Ronnie Tyler: But really be intentional about the types of communication that you have with your spouse and say, “You know, Saturday at 3, I really wanna talk to you about this business, these goals that I have. Can we talk about that?”

And so I would say, for communication, really be intentional about it. Get some help. It doesn’t always have to be extreme, like, “Oh, we're breakin’ up, we have to go to counseling.” Not like that, but read a book.

Lamar Tyler: Mm-hmm.

Ronnie Tyler: Do a digital course or read some blog posts or something like that and really work on your communication.

Dusey Van Dusen: What I'm hearing is just, like, be invested in it, right?


Ronnie Tyler: Yes!

Dusey Van Dusen: Like, and there’s a lot of different forms that can take, but make sure that you're invested in it. And I know, I love what you're saying about being intentional about it, because I know the weeks that my wife and I, like, do a weekly planning—and even if it’s just looking at the schedule ahead and kinda talking about what’s coming up, like, those go so much better when we've just taken a little bit of time at the beginning of the week to say, “Here’s what I'm workin’ on, what are you workin’ on and, you know, how can we support each other in these things that are coming up?” That makes a huge difference.

Lamar Tyler: That’s great.

Dusey Van Dusen: And it’s a good reminder to me to do it more. I'm like, “Ooh, it’s been a while.” [Laughter]

Lamar Tyler: [Laughter] That’s great. Like you said, it doesn’t have to be some big, you know, convoluted, long, drawn out process. And then we always tell couples as well—communication is not just about talking, it’s also about listening.

So, if Ronnie and I are communicating, and I want to really express something to her, it’s my responsibility to do my due diligence to make sure I'm getting my point across, and that she understands what I'm saying. And, as the listener, it’s her responsibility to make sure everything she’s receiving is clear, so she may even want to repeat that back to me. “Okay, based on what I'm hearing, you want us to, or you think the business should do X, Y, and Z.”


Because a lot of times, things get lost in translation, and you know, I think she says one thing or she says one thing, but maybe her body language, right—we didn't talk about nonverbal communication—body language could be saying something else, so how can we come together? And specifically, when we talk about businesses as well, I think it’s even more vital, because you both need to feel like you're invested in the process and invested in the business.

And as you were saying before, if one person is at home and they're kinda holding down the business at home, they still need to feel like they're part of the process. And I think a lot of times, that spouse that is in the office or, you know, doing things with the team, they may exclude the other person, and then that just sets up, you know, a chain reaction of other things that can happen and spiral downward.

So we just wanna encourage couples to make sure you have those conversations, make sure your spouse is invested in the process and that definitely will help things, you know, further along with the business.


Dusey Van Dusen: Well, that just about wraps it up for us. Any last, any last thoughts from anybody on—no? Alright. [Laughter]

Ellis Friedman: I have lots of thoughts.

Lamar Tyler: [Laughter]

Dusey Van Dusen: [Laughter]

Ronnie Tyler: Take it all in, take it all in.

Dusey Van Dusen: Fantastic. Yeah, so I definitely encourage our listeners, if you're thinking of working with family, if you do work with family, you know, be intentional about it, take some time. It sounds like, you know, make sure you're communicating, make sure you're setting up your guidelines with what your kind of rules of engagement are for, for working with family. That’s—I think that’s all such fantastic advice.

So, again, if you wanna check out their blog, you can go to and then Tyler New Media is their company. They have all these great events, they have tons of resources that you guys can go check out.

Anything else you guys want to plug before we head out?

Lamar Tyler: Um, that is primarily—I just wanna, you know, encourage the couples out there, and also, I do have a separate group for entrepreneurs as well called Traffic Sales and Profit, so you can check us out on Facebook, check us out at to just encourage entrepreneurs to keep pushing through and, you know, improve their businesses.


Improve the business, and that will improve the business relationship in your marriage, too.

Dusey Van Dusen: Well, that’s fantastic. I've had the chance to interact with the Tylers a lot, and I just want to let you listeners know—go check that out. I mean, they are an exemplary business and an exemplary couple, we're always glad to have them on, and that’s fantastic to hear that you've got some of those resources specifically for entrepreneurs, so everyone go check those out, for sure.

Thank you very much, everybody, for listening in, and this has been another episode of The Small Business Success Podcast.

Ellis Friedman: Do you have a question that you want us or an expert to answer? If you have questions about your small business, submit them at

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