5 Lessons for Building a Successful Business With Your Life Partner
Married in 2001, David Gunderman and Andrew Gunderman-Raskopf spent the first few years together in their own individual careers, before they got into real estate two decades ago and formed the Gunderman Group. Since then, they’ve taken top accolades year after year as they continually rank #1 in the Alameda/Berkeley/Piedmont/Oakland market. With 16 people and more than $4.5M in GCI, the pair have built the area’s most successful team. Here, they share some of their top tips for building a big business with your life partner.
1. Agree on your mission.
When David and Andrew were purchasing a home in Alameda preparing for the adoption of their two children, the couple worked with an agent who conducted the transaction with heart and humanity whose influence helped them form their own mission a few years later. When they considered getting into the business, they agreed that they would be about “care, advocacy, creativity and strategy, and never about sales.” Being clear about their mission and goals helped shape their interactions with each new client. “And it just ended up being so magical and a much more gratifying experience than we ever anticipated. It just really took off like a rocket for us,” they offered.
2. Take calculated risks.
Within a few years, David gained considerable momentum in real estate. Coupled with the addition of two children that were a year apart, the pair reevaluated Andrew’s high-level, high-stress job in education that required him to commute two hours to San Jose every day. Andrew explains, “I just knew that there was no way I was going to be the best parent and partner I could be, and have that job.” Though they admit that they are generally risk averse, making the decision for Andrew to leave his job and join David in real estate seemed like a calculated and wise move that they were willing to take. “It was scary putting all of our eggs in one, fairly new basket, but we decided to go for it. I jumped in two years into David’s career, and like any strong partnership, it was like two giant cogs that click into place, powering the relationship,” Andrew says. “We feel this kind of relationship with Keller Williams. You just know when it’s right.” Those calculated risks formed symbiotic relationships that the Gundermans point to as the foundation of their success, and the success of their team that they lovingly refer to as “a chosen family business.”
Taking leaps of faith sooner is something the Gundermans can see in hindsight would have propelled them farther and faster. “As you’re growing, you need more support, more people, and more systems, all offerings where Keller Williams uniquely excels. A lot of people hesitate; we certainly did. Our first business associates came a year or two after we truly needed them, and if we had acted sooner, we would have grown faster. You have to believe that spending the money for the assistant or bringing on your first buyer’s agent to share your business, will cause you to expand and yield positive results. Every time we have taken a leap of faith, it’s been rewarded in a multitude of ways, professionally and personally,” David reflects.
3. Tag team it.
The Gundermans were intentional from the start that working together would require that they learn to tag team well. They mapped out a plan to work in concert to nurture their business, their children, and their own relationship. Andrew elaborates, “We were able to clear out time for one another, for field trips and raising children, while also tag teaming and serving our clients extremely well. We feel so lucky and grateful that we’re in a business and marketplace that allows for that. We’ve been embraced by our community, and we’ve created a full-service home renovation, design, and marketing model that has resonated in the Bay Area.”
4. Work with your personality types and clarify your roles.
In terms of their partnership, David and Andrew have learned to respect one another’s unique personality types and bolster one another’s strengths. They are matter-of-fact about areas where one is stronger, or is more passionate, so they can lean into one another effectively and let go of aspects of the business one either executes better or enjoys more. “When you’re struggling with things you don’t do well, it erodes your time, energy, and happiness. It’s fundamentally counterproductive,” offers Andrew.
David adds, “We are very different people bringing different skills to the equation. If we were more similar, it’s likely we would have friction.” He urges any couples considering a business partnership to evaluate their emotional relationship to decipher if it can translate to the workplace. “When you go into business with your partner, it’s going to intensify and triangulate your relationship. You have to assess whether that’s going to be a positive or a negative. I don’t think it’s for everyone. For us, it’s truly been all positive. Boiled down to the essence, I think our success has a lot to do with the fact that Andrew operates from more of a heart space, making deep connections with people, and I operate more from a business data, contracts, and strategy headspace. Together, it has made for a powerful experience for our clients, and for our team of agents who learn a wide variety of skills from each of us.”
5. Engage a third party.
Andrew and David benefit greatly from coaching and having a neutral third party identify areas of weakness and expand effectively. They’re adamant that Enneagram-based work (a powerful personality assessment tool) has been vital to their health as a couple and as business partners, helping them identify ways that they trigger and support one another. That work has also led them to identifying clients’ personality traits and behaviors, giving them the tools they need to meet their customers where they are emotionally with individualized service and support.
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Join us at Family Reunion for the high-energy session: Who Wants to Be an MREA? The Gundermans will be competing against three other couples to work through hidden words, phrases, and clues based on one of the Three Ls of the Millionaire Model.