spouses in business

A Sit-Down With Studio Mcgee

Studio McGee owners Shea and Syd Mcgee

Studio McGee owners Shea and Syd Mcgee

By Austin Miller, Content Marketing Manager

Studio Mcgee is a full service design company run by husband-wife team Shea and Syd Mcgee. They sold their home and moved to Utah to follow their dreams. With 18 employees, clients all over the country, features in Domino Magazine, and a social media following that might even make Kim K bat an eye—things are paying off in a big way. 

Recently we got a chance to sit down with the couple who's making waves in the interior design industry. We talked design, business, and how to keep family relationships going strong when you're both needed at the office.

Before you started Studio McGee you guys both had your own successful careers…What made you come together and decide to start a business?

We had successful careers in extremely different fields – Syd managed an affiliate marketing startup focused on email marketing and I ran a busy interior design business out of our home. After Syd’s company was acquired, it was time to figure out his next project. I was supporting our family during the transition and couldn’t keep up with the number of client requests I received.

We soon realized that our skill-sets complemented each other really well and that he could run the business and allow me to focus solely on the design. We sold our home in Southern California and moved to Utah to start our design firm in a more business-friendly state. A year later, and a lot of late nights hunched over our laptops, we have 18 employees and a quickly growing business!

Studio Mcgee Office Interior by  Lindsey Salazar

Studio Mcgee Office Interior by Lindsey Salazar

When did you know that going into business together was the right decision? Was there ever an “Ah-ha” moment?

We toyed with the idea for months, but shied away from taking the leap because it sounded crazy! We decided to test the waters and Syd started by helping me get the business more organized (it was a mess) because I was a typical creative and had a lot more interest in designing homes than organizing invoices! We discovered that we actually work quite well together and that gave us the encouragement we needed to go into business together.

Do you try and keep work-family life separate? Or is that just an old platitude…

For us, there is no separation! Perhaps it’s because the business is so new, but we discuss business all the time – dinner dates, family walks and most times in between. That said, we get a lot more family time because of our flexible schedules. The only time we really get a separation is by going on vacation and making a conscious decision to clear our minds and take a break from work.

How do you leverage your strengths and weaknesses as a couple?

Our strength is that we have a unified vision and goals for the business. Our weakness is that we are so comfortable around each other that it can be easy to speak bluntly where other business partners would be more professional!

Studio Mcgee Office Interior by  Lindsey Salazar

Studio Mcgee Office Interior by Lindsey Salazar

What are some of the struggles of running a husband-wife business? The benefits?

The biggest struggle for us is that running a business is extremely demanding both on our time and emotions! When we’re tired or stressed, it’s easy to bicker over little things. However, for us, the benefits far outweigh the struggles. We get to work together doing something we’re both passionate about, our daughter can ride her scooter around the office while we have a quick meeting, and we get to celebrate big and little wins together every day.

What advice can you give others who are considering going into business with their significant other?

My best advice is to only go into business together if your roles in the company are very separate and distinct. Although we keep each other in the loop and make big picture decisions together, we rarely venture into the others’ business territory – Syd never picks out tile and I don’t develop project management systems. For us, the separation of roles has been key to a happy work/marriage life.


Check out our post "Utah's Top 5 Workspaces" to see a in-depth look at the Studio Mcgee's HQ. 


Please note that KPMG Spark’s sponsorship of this blog article is not intended to address the specific circumstances of any particular individual or entity and does not constitute an endorsement of any entity or its products or services. This content represents the views of the author, and does not necessarily represent the views or professional advice of KPMG Spark.


Should Spouses go Into Business Together?

business partners spouses

Working Together as a Couple

As a husband-wife business duo, you're not just business partners you're partners for life. And while there are success stories like Adi Tarako and Alan Cohen (the husband-wife owners of the $2 billion site Houzz), there are also horror stories like the founder’s of Burt’s Bees—Burt Shavitz and Roxanne Quimby. The business owner-spouse dynamic can be a strange and rewarding relationship where what happens at home can affect what happens in the office and visa versa, and it goes without saying that starting a business together is not a light decision. 

Here are six things you should consider before throwing all of your life savings into a “sure thing”:

1. Zoning

It will be tempting to bring business matters home but this simply isn’t an option, especially if you have employees. It’s important to maintain a professional demeanor, any tension between spouses can and will carry over to others. Such tension can cause employees to feel awkward or compelled to “choose a side." 

Inversely, when at the dinner table there will be times you’ll want to discuss unresolved business. And although in special circumstances this might be necessary—it’s important to set boundaries early on. Failing to do so will cause your relationship to suffer. After a long day of work, your mind and body need to decompress, and focusing on your relationship can only benefit your business in the long run. 

2. Comfortability

As spouses you will share a level of comfortability that you won’t share with others including clients, employees, and strategic business partners. Talking down to each other, complaining about your spouse when they aren’t in the office, or too much public affection can all be cause for loss of professionalism. Keeping a professional demeanor will help you command more credibility and respect at the work place. 

3. Skill Set

Once you have a well thought out business plan that includes the hows of business and not just the whats—it’s time to make an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. This crucial step will help you know what to expect in the way of expenditures. If you need a programmer and neither of you know how to program—you’re going to have to calculate that cost and adjust accordingly. If there are shared gaps in expertise, look to small business outsourcing as an easy way to save time and headache. 

4. Shared Vision

The last thing you want is for both of you to be working your tails off while heading in opposite directions. Before you begin producing, hiring and investing—it’s important to make sure you're working together as a couple. Take some time, in fact, take a lot of time to draw out a well designed plan. Start with a long term vision and then work your way down to hyper-focused goals. This will assure that your end goal is the same and the only question left to ask is “How do we get there?” 

5. Home Life

This may seem like an obvious one, but it just might be the most important. Have you talked about who will watch the kids when they're home? Are you going to hire a babysitter—and if so, can you afford it? Who’s going to do the chores? Are you going to hire a cleaning service? Or will you have enough energy to do the dishes after both of you have been working all day?

Working together as a couple has the uncanny ability to make you take an analytical look at the day to day. Make sure you discuss these things in detail so there's no confusion when things "fall through the cracks." This is especially true when it comes your children's health and well-being.

6. Power Balance

Is one person going to take the lead? Should one person take the lead? Or will you work together as an equal partnership? 

It's easy to say you’ll have an equal share of power but when it comes to actively carrying out policies—sometimes one partner will take a natural leadership role over the other. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Remember consideration number 3? Play to your strengths as a partnership. Being master of your natural domain can be a bigger help to your brand’s success than being alpha dog. 

If one of you does take a more public leadership role in the company, it’s important to try not leverage the cache that come’s with a position of power over the other. When you walk through your home's door your position as manager ends.