“We know that when we challenge each other, we aren’t doing it for political or monetary gain but because it is what we believe is right for the business.”
Nicole Biernat & Larry Newhook, Co-Founders, Alpha Innovations & Laureate Digital Securities
The question is always asked – can my spouse also be my business partner without straining either relationship? Nicole Biernat and Larry Newhook, the founders of Alpha Innovations and Laureate Digital Securities, say yes but you have to go in with your eyes wide open.
When Larry decided he wanted to start his own global asset management firm instead of continuing in his successful career at financial institutions such as OMERS and Point72, he knew he needed a strong COO. “My biggest strength is always asking why. When I have an idea I ask myself, ‘Why can’t we do X, Y or Z? Often there is no meaningful impediment. It just hasn’t been done before.’” But every visionary, creative thinker needs the complementary person who thinks about how to make that great idea a reality.
“When starting off and partnering with someone, you have to trust the other person. When I was thinking about who could be my COO, I was looking across the table and realized Nicole was the best choice I could make. I knew that Nicole and I complemented each other well.”
Nicole also has a strong financial background working at companies such as Goldman Sachs and Putnam Lovell so she and Larry share a common language and expertise. At the same time they have different personalities that work well together – while Larry tends to be a risk-taker, Nicole is more conservative.
Both had reservations about going into business together but were thrilled with the idea of being able to spend more time together. And they found that being married brought benefits to the company. “We can be more direct and honest with each other,” Nicole says. “We know that when we challenge each other, we aren’t doing it for political or monetary gain but because it is what we believe is right for the business.”
Nicole and Larry’s advice to new entrepreneurs? You can’t do it alone – period. You need a sounding board when you are working through ideas, a cheerleader to encourage you when you are down and a trusted partner who can give you a dose of reality when you need it. You need to find the person who balances you both in personality and skill set. And sometimes that person is sitting right at your kitchen table.
Copyright© 2019 Emelie Smith Calbick and Betty Wong