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MHP Brokers Tips and Tricks Podcast, Running a Business (and Life) as Husband and Wife

July 20, 2022 by Maxwell Baker

In this episode of The MHP Broker’s Tips and Tricks podcast, the husband and wife team of Max and Kathryn Baker explain how they make the most of running a business while not neglecting to nurture a relationship.

Max and Kathryn are the married co-owners of The MHP Broker. This and all of the Tips and Tricks podcast episodes are brought to you by their proprietary Community Price Maximizer. Use this four-step system to get the highest price possible for your mobile home park or RV community when you sell it through MHP Broker. Guaranteed. Ask Max for details.

Here Are Show Highlights:

  • Both read The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living, a daily devotional book of stoic philosophy by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman. Words to live by in the Baker household and business offices. (Kathryn, 0:36)
  • The philosophical and inspirational book has taught Max how to be more grounded and to be a better leader, and both have learned to be more grateful for their accomplishments. (Max, 2:06)
  • They’ve also learned how to stay in touch with what’s going on in the lives of their team members through The Daily Stoic. This is a skill that’s imperative especially to a virtual company such as theirs, with everyone working remotely. So they’re not often face to face. (Kathryn, 3:10)
  • The Bakers operated their company virtually even before the pandemic. It wasn’t always easy. The second thing they learned, how to let each other create their own lanes, let them work as a duo, neither reporting to the other but maintaining their own sets of responsibilities. (Max, 3:41)
  • Kathryn felt that their first year together in business was the worst. Max was already involved with his company, and Kathryn felt he had a tendency to give orders to her just like he did to everyone else. Once they learned the magic of staying in their own lanes, they could coexist as equals. (Kathryn, 4:52)
  • Max had to learn to be a better communicator. Once he’d mastered that, it made their work life and personal lives both work better. (Max, 6:02)
  • Max credits a client friend and his wife, successful California business owners, for teaching them the importance of staying in their own lanes and not constantly looking over each other’s shoulder. (Max, 6:58)
  • The third tip is to have a weekly high-level breakfast or lunch meeting. The Bakers both look forward to this combination of social, business and relationship catch-up. They start giving agenda topics to their assistant all week long, so they have specific high-level topics to discuss at their meetings. (Max, 7:33)
  • Before adopting the weekly meeting strategy, business discussions might intrude on their most personal moments. Since their meetings, there’s much less work time breaking into personal time. (Kathryn, 8:41)
  • Tip number four is to have date nights. It’s something they carefully plan now. (Max, 10:44)
  • “Daydreaming” is an allowable form of after hours work talk. That’s a matter of looking at the big picture elements of work, their future goals and dreams, a conversation topic that’s pleasurable for both of them. (Kathryn, 11:59)
  • Advice that works for Max (but not Kathryn) is to read The Superior Man for guidance on how to become a better man and better in a relationship. (Max, 12:33)
  • The Bakers use quarterly and annual meetings of just the two of them to set long-range and big picture planning, and to review the outcome of big picture plans they made earlier. (Max, 13:40)
  • As a component of this, they have a meeting early each year to plan out that whole year and put it all on a calendar. (Kathryn, 15:25)
  • Useful tip number seven for running a successful couples business is to “listen, don’t talk.” Max learned the importance of this skill as a sales guy, interacting with clients. (Max, 17:47)
  • The last piece of advice for couples running a business is to take long walks together and use the time to communicate. It’s also great exercise and stress relief! (Max, 18:16)
  • Working with your spouse isn’t for everyone, but it works for the Bakers–once they took that challenging first year to figure out how to do it right. (Kathryn, 20:47)

Power Quotes on This Episode:

 “(The Daily Stoic) lets you stay grounded and less ego-centered, less emotional…” (Max, 2:06)

“…as a company that’s virtual and has been virtual, even before the pandemic, we have really excelled in our culture here at the firm and do pretty well with it.” (Max, 3:41)

“The first year that we worked together was the hardest because that was where we really learned that we had to create our own lanes.”(Kathryn, 4:52)

“…in the beginning, you’re just going to be emotional and upset with one another Frustrated. We went through all of that.” (Max, 6:02)

“…who can be upset when they’re having a meal? And so we found a good breakfast spot to go to and it just started clicking.” (Kathryn, 8:51)

“The wins are what keep you going.” (Max, 14:34)

“Listen more than talk.” (Max, 16:08)

“I love a good walk and talk. When we’re trying to brainstorm things and we’re a little

stuck on an idea, we’ll just go for a walk.” (Kathryn, 19:04)

I’ll just say working with your spouse is not for everyone. But if you are considering

doing it and you happen to be listening to this, I will say it is worth the first year

struggle.” (Kathryn, 20:47)

Reach out to Max and Kathryn if you’re trying to run a business with a spouse or loved one. Both Bakers have been there, and have advice to offer. Just drop them a line at info@themhpbroker.com or give them a call at 678-932-0200.

00:02

Hello, and welcome to The Mobile Home Park Brokers Tips and Tricks. This is the podcast where we talk about mobile home park investing, because that’s what we’ve been involved in for the last decade. Let’s dive into today’s episode. Here’s your host, Maxwell Baker.

 00:22 Maxwell Baker

Hey y’all welcome to another beautiful episode of The Mobile Home Park Brokers Tips and Tricks. Today, I’m very excited to have my wife, Kathryn Baker. Kathryn say hello.

00:35 Kathryn Baker

Hey y’all.

00:36 Maxwell Baker

We’re going to be going over how to work together as a husband and wife duo. But before we jump into that, this episode is brought to you by the Community Price Maximizer. It is our proprietary system that will guarantee you a higher pricewhen you sell exclusively with us. It is our four step program. Give us a call 678-932-0200 or email at info@themhpbroker.com. So with my selfless being over, let’s move into number one of this podcast. Kathryn,do you want to state it? Well, we do almost daily, but not every day because we are not perfect here. We make mistakes all the time. But what’s the book we read by Ryan Holiday?

01:24 Kathryn Baker

So we like to start off or try to start off a lot of our meetings with The Daily Stoic. One thing that we incorporated with, this is after Max had read it. We started bringing it up in our meetings and really found that some days it would just hit home. It would give you a message to offer perspective about something that was going on in our life, whether it was a challenge with business, or it was a challenge personally, maybe we’re having a relationship or we’re having with someone in our lives. And it would always kind of ground us so that we would kick off our meeting on a better foot and not let all the outside distractions get into the meeting flow.

02:06 Maxwell Baker

Yeah, so the Daily Stoic is not a religious orientation at all, really, it’s more philosophy of life. And Marcus Aurelius created a book called ‘Meditations’. It’s a great book, it’s very hard to read, just setting expectations. But the knowledge that man drops is phenomenal, and helps you stay grounded and less ego center, less emotional and that’s why that saying, you know, he’s being very stoic. That’s where it really where it stems from. Being emotional is totally fine as a stoic. But the biggest thing I’ve learned from it is just really how to ground myself and not let tragedy in my life or something crazy in my life, those emotions influence how to be a better leader or to be a better leader at the firm. And another thing that stoicism says that we should do is also be grateful. And before every one of our meetings here at The MHP Broker, whether sales or back a house, or even when Kathryn and I, we always state what we’re grateful for. So Kathryn, do you want to have some insight on what it’s done for culture at our firm?

03:10 Kathryn Baker

What I love about the grateful things, I’ve gotten to learn more about the people that are on our team, what’s going on their life, what gets them excited, sometimes it is not what they’re grateful for, but we’ll learn about a struggle that’s going on with them. And that helps give us more perspective on how we can help and how we can be better teammates. But working in a virtual company, I have found that it has just connected us and I highly recommend it for anybody that’s either on a virtual team or working in person.

03:41 Maxwell Baker

Yeah. So being grateful is one of the best things you can do for your own happiness really just sets the culture here at our firm. It is our foundation that we’re constantly trying to be better and continuous growth, that is the purpose of my life and I’m assuming Kathryn’s I don’t speak for her. For me, it’s about continuous growth and being the best partner husband to her in this journey we call life. So I really like the gratefulness here on the virtual stuff simply because we don’t get much watercooler talk. That’s one of the things of the physical companies out there, get plenty of and there’s a lot of great things that come from that. But as a company that’s virtual and has been virtual, even before the pandemic yet, we have really excelled in our culture here at the firm and do pretty well with it.

So moving on to number two, which is creating lanes for each other to work in, then only meeting over a high level of stuff versus having to report to one another. Kathryn what does that mean to you?

04:52 Kathryn Baker

So before I dive into that, one of the number one things I will just go ahead and call out is the first year that we worked together was the hardest because that was where we really learned that we had to create our own lanes. And while you may say that, you first have to learn the business, get in there and figure out how you can help because Max started the MHP Broker, this was his baby. And then I came in to help grow it. And I had to learn every single position, which meant I had to kind of do a role where it felt like I was reporting to him. And it really challenged us on how we communicated with each other, how he spoke to people on the team, and how he could not speak to me the way that he spoke to people on the team. So, once I finally got a good handle on the business, and was able to start hiring people to do the roles that I learned, that’s when we were able to create almost our different islands as I always would think of it, he has his area in the business that he works on. And then I have mine and we put a team in between us. And that created a beautiful working relationship. But it did take time to get there.

06:02 Maxwell Baker

Yeah, working together in the first year was tough, y’all, I’m not gonna try and bullshit you and say it wasn’t, there was a lot of miscommunication. There’s a lot of emotions flying back and forth. I as a leader of the firm, and of our family, really, we’re both leaders, but I’ll just take my side of the story. I had to figure out how to communicate better. And ultimately, that’s what it takes a lot of people are like, ‘Oh, I can never work with my spouse’. And a lot of people can’t, there’s nothing wrong with that. But the variable is that I personally, this is my humble opinion, it’s not that you can’t work with your spouse is that you’re not willing to figure out how to communicate better, because in the beginning, you’re just going to be emotional and upset with one another frustrated, we went through all of that. But just navigating the portion of communication really helped us become a better couple, become a better husband and wife and become better partners here at the firm.

 06:58 Maxwell Baker

And I won’t take credit for this idea. This credit actually came from a client of mine who owns like a $35-$40 million grossing year company in California. We’ll call him Matt. And Matt works with his wife as well. And he actually gave me the idea of like working and each other’s lanes and not having one another report to each other. They just talked about high level stuff. So this is not my idea. But just having those separations of responsibilities and just reporting each other really is what it is just made it a lot easier for us to navigate.

07:33 Maxwell Baker

So moving on to number three. Number three is having a weekly high-level breakfast and lunch meeting. This is actually my favorite day of the week. I gotta tell Kathryn, like today’s Wednesday, as we’re recording and tomorrow is Thursday, and tomorrow, we go over to our favorite breakfast spot. In the morning, we get up, we ride our bikes, or walk or sometimes drive if it’s raining or cold. And we go sit down, we go through our grateful things. We read a passage from the daily stoic, we eat our breakfast and then after breakfast is done, we start going into Asana, and we just meet over high-level projects. And all throughout the week, Kathryn and myself are typically throwing agenda items at our assistant and then she puts it into the calendar as well as in Asana. So we always have agenda items that we’re talking about. And it could be personal, it doesn’t have to be all work.So we do personal we do work and it works out pretty well. Kathryn, I’m kind of taking over the conversation here. Any thoughts on this whole process of you know, just some insight on how you feel about it.

08:41 Kathryn Baker

Best decision we ever made. So before we used to do weekly meetings actually came from Strategic Coach, it seems like a no brainer that you would have a weekly meeting. But for some reason, because we were seeing each other so much, we weren’t doing that, which then meant that we were constantly asking each other work questions, and you just kind of felt like you were on the clock all the time. Or we felt things were slipping through the cracks and random fights would come out because of it. So we gave ourselves one day a week where we would meet and we started doing it at the house and in our office space, you know, just having our weekly meeting. And again, it didn’t quite fix everything was some of the tension going on. So we came up with the idea. Let’s go to breakfast. Let’s get out of our normal routine. Let’s just go somewhere and get some food because who can be upset when they’re having a meal? And so we found a good breakfast spot to go to and it just started clicking. Everything after that, we’ve seen our business become much smoother. The projects are getting done. We don’t talk about work outside of work hours as much anymore and it just we have that one spot that we know we will catch everything.

09:56 Maxwell Baker

Yeah, that’s it. That’s the big thing. A lot of people are like ‘Oh, you’re husband and wife working together? Oh, I could never do that.You’re always talking about work’. Not necessarily, if you set parameters and some little guardrails to keep you from having to talk all the time, and don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect. Sometimes I’m laying in bed, and I’ll mention something and she’s like, “We’re not talking about work while we’re laying in bed. Sorry”. That’s like, all right. And I’ll do the same thing to her like I was like, “I’m not talking about work when we’re laying in bed”, or “We’re not talking about work while I’m in the bathroom”, like, “don’t talk to me”.

So, we have some parameters that we’re very strict about, you know, there’s just got to be some things that you’ve got to lay the ground rulesin order for you to function because I mean, we’re always talking to each other and we’re always, you know, brainstorming ideas and whatnot.

10:44 Maxwell Baker

So, moving on to number four, date nights. This is pretty common for a lot of marriages out there, they always have to do the date nights. Now, we’re not perfect. We do occasionally miss some. But we’re always shooting to do something fun. And our assistant typically rallies up all the events happening in the city that we live in here in Atlanta and every weekend, like she’ll give us a list of all the items that we’ve got going on that week. Some events, I like to go and listen to the Atlanta Symphony. As long as you can just spend some time where you’re not talking about work in really just enjoying each other’s company, which is my favorite time just because it’s like, back when we were dating, you know, in college, we were just hanging out and it wasn’t about work. It was just about having a good time. So, Kathryn any insights on that.

11:34 Kathryn Baker

No, I agree with that. We try not to go no longer than one month without a date night.

11:37 Maxwell Baker

I’m always shooting for a week,

11:39 Kathryn Baker

Which I appreciate. But now that life is back with all the activities and things going on. It can be a scheduling nightmare. But I try to always do one thing that’s just us and, you know, spontaneous things as well when they pop up and just having fun together.

11:55 Maxwell Baker

Yeah, just really continue dating your spouse. I mean, because it’s a big important part.

11:59 Kathryn Baker

But I do want to add one thing, while we do set our parameters for when we talk about work. There is a difference for me when we daydream, because we have fun working together, we enjoy that side of each other and we love what we do. So when we’re out and we get fun ideas and things come up and we let ourselves dream. But when we start to get too specific on how it’s gonna get done, that’s where we pull the cord.

12:23 Maxwell Baker

Yeah, we say all right, this is a great dream board this will go on the dream board of marketing or ideas for future travel or anything we just –

12:32 Kathryn Baker

And that works for us.

12:33 Maxwell Baker

Yeah, it works for us. It’s just how we’ve we’ve worked it. Moving on to reading The Superior Man. This is a great book, Kathryn’s laughing and rolling her eyes. But it is a great book, as a man, teaches you how to love your wife, teaches you the parameters of having a relationship with your spouse. And the title of the book is a little misleading. But it’s really just about how to be a man in life. And for me, it really helped me communicate better with her. Really helps me love her more, helps me understand how she communicates more. And really, it’s just been a game changer with just how to have a romantic relationship with somebody. And being that we work together, it’s very important for us, and by all means I am not perfect. I sometimes slam my head in the door.I’m really good at doing that. But you can’t be afraid to do that because that’s how you learn. Kathryn, do you have any insights on that book?

13:36 Kathryn Baker

No, I didn’t read it.

13:40 Maxwell Baker

It is geared towards men, but a lot of women do read it. She hasn’t read it yet. But I thoroughly enjoyed that book. And it has helped me really just communicate better with her. Moving on to the annual and quarterly meetings. This is something that has really helped us kind of fine tune what we’re trying to accomplish as a couple long-term. And this came from Strategic Coach, a lot of this stuff came from there, and it was probably one of the better ideas that I’ve had is that we’re always planning with each other. You know, there’s never an opportunity when we’re within talking about future dreams and endeavors like “Hey, this is what we want to accomplish” and we’ve got this year to try and do it and whether it’s buying other investment properties, set up some more stuff with the management, get another car, whatever it is – major life events.

14:34 Maxwell Baker

Planning annually is the best thing that we start out with and then we go over quarterly and out of our planning, we always label all the wins from the previous quarter and year, and those wins are sometimes very long. We enjoy talking about our wins instead of just jumping straight into work, because the wins are what keep you going.It’s what it’s what keeps you happy in lifeand really recognizing what you’ve accomplished in your rearview mirror helps you avoid the gap of the constant change of ideals that you may or may not have that come up.Because if your ideals are constantly changing, you’re never going to be satisfied. You’ve always got to look in the rearview mirror to see man this year, we accomplished XYZ and this quarter, we did this – wow we accomplished so much this quarter,pat yourself on the back.Kathryn do you have any insights on any of that stuff?

15:25 Kathryn Baker

The other thing that we do is at the beginning of the year, we plan out our whole year. So we’ll plan out any family commitments that we have, any friend commitments, that we have work commitments, we’ll put some trips that are on our dream board of things that we want to do just us that goals that we have, and we put it all on the calendar. If you talked to me 20 years ago, I probably would have cringed at this idea. But today, it has given us a lot of freedom. And it at the end of the year, I’m always so excited to see everything that we’ve accomplished because we made the time for it at the beginning of the year.

16:08 Maxwell Baker

Amen. Amen to that. So planning is boring to some people. But when you go over your wins, that’s always fun, at least with us. The next one is listen more than talk. I am naturally a big listener, Kathryn is naturally a big talker.I love to listen, it’s a beautiful duo. She always like laughs and rolls their eyes when I say that. But in reality, it’s as entrepreneurs, we have to become better listeners. And being that I’ve been in sales, asking questions is how you control conversations, not by who’s talking and I like to be asking questions, even with her or even with anybody, because you learn a lot. And as an entrepreneur, like you’ve always got to be seeking knowledge.

16:56 Maxwell Baker

I’m always trying to seek knowledge from her, from social media, people I talk to on the phone, clients, people back of the house that worked with us, all that stuff. I’m always listening. And if they start talking, I immediately shut up. And I’m like, can you tell me a little bit more about what you mean? Like I’m always trying to get them to answer questions, always trying to get them to talk it out just because like it just allows for you to navigate the conversation. A lot of times the way it needs to be navigated or the way you want it to be navigated. Kathryn, you have any insight on any of that?

17:32 Kathryn Baker

Calling me out. I will agree.You are very good at asking questions, something I’m working on. I tend to get a little lost in my story sometimes. My friends will call me out on that. But yeah, I agree with what you’re saying.

17:47 Maxwell Baker

Yeah, so I try to listen a lot more than most, I mean, a lot of people because most people just love to talk. And if you’re in sales, like I’ve been in sales for the last over a decade, the way you influence people and the way you influence the path that the conversation is going is by asking questions. So that was a big thing for my ‘aha’ moment for us to work together is that I’m always trying to ask questions.

18:16 Maxwell Baker

Lastly, but not least, is going for walks. I like to go for walks or runs.Kathryn not so much on the running part. But she actually walks probably a little more than I do because there’s some girlfriends around town that like to go walk.But I would say walking and just being able to talk high level stuff and just have spouse time. It’s just being outside hearing the birds chirping or if you’re out west hearing the sand blow past, you know, it kind of sounds out in the desert, maybe a coyote or two. But just being out in nature and just going for a walk and just enjoying each other’s company. And by all means, like I said I am not perfect. These are just ideas that I haveand thatKathryn has that we are always shooting to trying to do together. So Kathryn any insights on the whole walking?

19:04 Kathryn Baker

I love a good walk and talk. When we’re trying to brainstorm things and we’re little stuck on an idea. We’ll just go for a walk. If one of us is frustrated with something we can go for a walk. By the end of the walk we normally have it mostly figured it out. Yeah, at least what the next step is.

19:21 Maxwell Baker

The biggest thing there is which way we’re going to walk. That’s typically where we argue the most is I want to walk this route. No, we’re walking this route. No, we’re walking this route.

19:31 Kathryn Baker

We’re very strong-headed people.

19:34 Maxwell Baker

Oh, yeah. She’s very alpha female. I’m alpha male, organically. I’m very opinionated about things. You can ask her about anything and everything about what I’m opinionated about. She’ll say, yeah, he’s got an opinion about it. So that’s something that I think is a strength. I don’t know about her. But yeah, so we enjoy our walks even when we are debating. So that pretty much wraps it up, so I’ll relabel them real quick.

19:57 Maxwell Baker

Number one reading from The Daily Stoic, start stating what we’re grateful for. Number two creating lanes for each other to work in. Number three, having a weekly high level breakfast meeting. Number four having date nights. Number five, reading The Superior Man. Number six, annual and quarterly meetings. Number seven, listen more than talk, listen more than you talk. And number eight, going for walks and having just a vent session. So there’s obviously way more out there, y’all. But for me, those are the eight things that we have enjoyed working with one another and made us successful. Kathryn, do you have any closing statements that you might want to say?

20:47Kathryn Baker

I’ll just say working with your spouse is not for everyone. But if you are considering doing it and you happen to be listening to this, I will say it is worth the first year struggle. It’s worth figuring it out because now I get to spend a lot of my time with my favorite personand we get a lot of freedom in our schedule as far as we get to travel more we get to do things together. And that’s because we run a business together.

21:10 Maxwell Baker

Amen to that. So there’s a lot of benefits. I love being on the same schedule as my wife. That’s probably the biggest benefit out of it all. We can choose when to work and when the take off together I mean the freedom is worth its weight in gold. So as always, this episode is brought to you by the Community Price Maximizer. It is our proprietary system that will guarantee you a higher price when you exclusively list your communities with us. Keep in mind I said communities in case you have more than one. We are doing a lot of portfolio sales these days. So yeah, give us a call (678) 932-0200 or email us at info@themhpbroker.com. As always, we’re grateful for y’all listening out there. And if you have any questions about working with your spouse, like I said, give us a call or shoot me an email, and we’ll happy to talk about it. Thanks y’all. Be well.

22:09Kathryn Baker

Bye

Maxwell Baker

Maxwell R. Baker founded The MHP Broker in 2009 as a commercial real estate broker specializing in helping Investors buy and sell mobile home communities throughout the Southeast. His family got started with mobile home parks in 2000 where Max gained experience in management, rehabilitation, and selling mobile home parks. Today, The MHP Broker has grown to a team of several agents with expanded services focused on owner and investor brokerage services, mobile home park audits, and in-depth market research, resulting in the sale of over $500 million worth of mobile home communities.