Living and working together; ‘How do we do it, honey?’

After dating for about eight months, Dave and Linda Burggraff of Little Falls ran away to get married. They were young, in love and not sure if Linda’s parents would agree. After all, he was a farm boy from Royalton and she was a Little Falls city slicker.

“We ran to the courthouse and Judge George Wetzel married us,” said Dave.

That was 45 years ago. For many years the two have been running their own businesses side-by-side. She has “Lin Furniture” and he has “Dave’s Custom Framing” in Little Falls.

Even though both businesses are located in the same building, the couple has worked to find ways to make it work. Living and working together can take its toll on a marriage if one is not careful.

The Burggraffs have found that if they each stick to their own business without inserting themselves into everyday decisions, it works.

Dave and Linda Burggraff
Dave and Linda Burggraff

“You treat each other differently than you treat other people, so you have to make sure that you just don’t do something simply because she’s your spouse,” Dave said.

The couple has learned to draw from each other’s strengths, as well. Linda is a more detailed person, he isn’t.

“You really have to separate the duties. Know what your part of the job is and don’t try to do each other’s jobs,” Linda said.

Another key point to remember is that different people are going to do the same tasks differently, but as long as the job gets done, to not fuss about it.

There are also many benefits when it comes to working together. Since the couple is together more, they know each other on a deeper level, Dave said.

“Not everything is easy. You have to work at it and if you don’t work at it, it won’t work out. It’s a give and take from both sides. You have to be able to compromise,” Dave said.

“I’d do it all over again,” Linda said.

Denny and Lori Mueller live in Pillager, but own Gosch’s Grocery in Randall. They have been married for 33 years.

Growing up, Denny was the best friend of Lori’s brother, Tom Feldhage.

Denny and Lori Mueller
Denny and Lori Mueller

“Denny had a crush on me, but I wasn’t interested at first. He was a farm boy and I was a city girl,” Lori said.

It took a few years before Lori said yes to a date. Denny was always so kind that it made her wonder if it was really for real. Today, she’s glad Denny was persistent in his quest to date her.

Prior to buying Gosch’s from Bob and Bobbie Riitters 13 years ago, both worked at different jobs. She worked in the finance field and he was a meat cutter and meat manager.

One thing the Muellers have found very important to have in their everyday life, is humor.

“Humor is key. It is good when you are challenged, frustrated or stressed,” said Lori.

Humor is something they incorporate in dealing with their employees, as well.

“Humor tends to make them feel more comfortable. We are human and we do make mistakes at times. We don’t expect anyone to be perfect. We are people working here, not robots,” Denny said.

Since the Muellers are strong Christians with a solid faith in God, they believe it is good to set an example to those around them of what a good marriage looks like.

“Despite the fact that we have been together for 33 years, we are still two independent people. We still have our own ideas,” Denny said. “We have to work out how we’re going to combine two different ideas. The last thing we want to show is a major disagreement whether for the customers or for the employees.”

Another key aspect when living and working together is showing each other love and respect. As busy as work and life can get, Lori said that sometimes a time to talk has to be scheduled.

One of the biggest challenges for the Muellers unless they are intentional about it, is to not talk about work at home and to schedule regular dates when work walk is also off limits.

“Sometimes we talk about what we could have done differently, but most times, just don’t take it home with you,” Lori said.

The Muellers have also set it up so they have their offices on separate ends of the store. Even though they love each other dearly, the layout works well so they are not constantly together.

They have also separated their duties. Lori primarily works the cash register and takes care of the administrative side of the business. Denny, on the other hand, is more on the floor and takes care of the merchandise.

Like the Burggraffs and the Muellers, Tom and Jenni Smude of Pierz have their own separate offices. It works out great, Tom said for many reasons. One of them being that Jenni likes the room temperature to be about five degrees warmer than his personal preference. With separate offices, they both get what they prefer.

Tom and Jenni Smude
Tom and Jenni Smude

But it has not always been that way. Before they moved to their current location, they shared a 10-by 10-foot office at home.

“I’d back up and run into her chair. She’d open a file cabinet and hit me in the head,” Tom said.

The Smude own and operate several businesses, such as Smude Sunflower Oil and Midwest Sales and Construction, as well as their own beef and crop farm.

Tom and Jenni have been married for nearly 17 years . They met through friends of their parents and throughout the years, they’ve learned a few things about working together. Like the others, a separation of duties has been key.

Jenni takes cares of the accounting for the businesses and he is more focused on sales. Working toward the same goal, Tom said it comes down to trust that each of them will hold up their end of the bargain.

The biggest challenge is not to talk about business at home too much.

“It’s a seven days a week. It doesn’t end. If you don’t pour your heart and soul into the business, you’re not going to make it,” Tom said.

Both Tom and Jenni consider their two children to be their highest priority. Working together makes it possible for at least one of them to make it to the various activities their kids are in.

Another benefit of working together is that they can easily talk to each other face-to-face rather than text messaging or calling.

For Becky Hillig of Long Prairie, it is only natural to work with her husband, Scott. She grew up in Swanville where her parents worked together.

“People may say they would never know how to work with their spouse, but to me, it just seems natural,” Becky said.

Scott and Becky Hillig
Scott and Becky Hillig

Throughout their nearly 30 years of marriage, Scott and Becky have always worked together. In the beginning, they both worked for his dad’s implement dealership.

His dad had bought an implement dealership across from where Becky’s parents’ business was and it was through that connection the two met.

“When I first met him, I joked with my sister, June, and told her I had met the guy I was going to marry. I was just joking then,” Becky said.

Since both their families shared several common interests, such as car racing, they spent time together. Eventually their relationship developed into more.

Even though they can do each other’s jobs, they’ve split their tasks to their own likes. Even though Becky can handle sales, it is not her passion. Instead Scott handles more of the sales side and she handles the administrative and accounting bookkeeping side. They both do servicing.

“But when one of us is busy, we switch off and the other does it,” Becky said.

Becky believes in order for a couple to be successful in living and working together, they must first have a good core relationship.

In challenging times, it is also easy to say things to each other that may be regretted later. Sometimes it’s just best not to say anything at all, she said.

“It’s the same with being married. People get themselves into trouble there when they say things they shouldn’t,” she said.

Both Scott and Becky believe it is important for them to present a united front. It causes less confusion, not only for them, but also for their employees.

Scott said one of the benefits of working together is that when something goes wrong, they both know what the other is going through.

Looking back, despite of all of life’s ups and downs, in the end, it is all worth it, all of the couples agreed.