Divide and conquer: NovaSim
A mathematical couple find one thing indispensable to their love-and-work relationship: walls.
When couples move in together, disagreements inevitably arise, and a 40-hour-plus work week normally offers a respite. But that wasn't the case for Kerrie Paige, a Ph.D. in mathematical analysis, who with her partner, Jaret Hauge, launched their simulation-software business, NovaSim, in January 2000 - she from her house in Bellingham, Wash., and he from his base in Toronto. When they started the company, they were both undergoing separations, and romance was the furthest thing from their mind.
Perfect business partners, they earned profits early on, and Hauge decided to move to Bellingham that summer. By year's end, the two realized they were a great romantic match as well. He eventually moved into Paige's home and office - which were one and the same. And so, they shared a work space. More than disputes over the décor or laundry or Paige's kids (who live with her and were 5, 9, and 12 when he first arrived), it was the business calls that drove them a little crazy.
"We had to be on the phone with clients a lot, and our work is technically difficult so it requires concentration," said Paige. "It got distracting for one of us to be on the phone while the other was trying to concentrate. We'd have to lower our voices when speaking with clients or put on headphones to drown out the other person's conversation."
They married in 2003 even though the office layout, says Paige, "just wasn't working out."
For a while they worked from separate floors of the house, but last fall they moved into a separate office building, where they hired a contractor to put up a soundproof wall between them. "We're much more productive this way," says Paige.
With their office space revamped, they turned their attention last year to restructuring their roles in their company. In the past, each would shepherd his or her projects from beginning to end, and whoever had spare time would pick up the administrative tasks.
"We soon realized that we needed to define our roles more clearly," says Hauge. They've now carved out their duties by function, with Paige overseeing sales and management and Hauge making sure their products and services are delivered smoothly. Results soon followed: In 2007 they earned $357,000 in revenues, a 17 percent jump over 2006.
Profits aside, the company has inspired Paige's 16-year-old son Alex, who has lived with Nova-Sim since grade school.
"I think it would be fun to start my own business, choose what I'm interested in, and have my own hours," he says. "And if I got married, I definitely wouldn't mind starting something with a spouse - we'd spend more time together that way. And that would be pretty cool." - Phaedra Hise, with additional reporting by Ingrid Tharasook.