Kathy: Mark and Marj, welcome to the show. How are you guys this evening?
Mark: doing great. Thanks Kathy. Fun to be
Kathy: Good, good, good. I love how we shift. They were talking about how they had a difficult day, but it’s like, we’re going to put on our show face. I love it. Thank you guys so much.
we want to just, um, let our guests get to know a little bit about you guys first. And so I have some fun questions that I like to ask couples. First one is if your marriage was a team sport, what would it be?
Mark: Should we go with your answer before we got on, I was going to say something like tennis doubles, tennis, where we compliment each other, but Marj said maybe ice curling, you know, that ridiculous sport in the winter Olympics that no one can understand why it’s a sport.
Partly because one guy’s job is to push the big stone thing. They call it ridiculously slowly slide. That would probably be my job because the other person’s job is to do the little broom thing and sweep and Marj loves to clean. It turns out she can be the little sweeper person and I’d be the pusher person.
And that actually kind of fits us.
Marj: Doesn’t it? I think we, we definitely. In our marriage divided, what we do. Took on certain roles and it worked out.
Mark: And those that support those two roles, couldn’t be more different. Yes,
Kathy: that’s great. So like from the beginning were you guys real,
Marj: I really wanted to be a stay at home mom.
Mark: And Marj was an anthropology major, incredibly practical, uh, college degree.
So she wasn’t sure what she was gonna do with that afterwards. And I guess we’ll get to how we met in a second, but yeah, there was a reason that she kind of went
Marj: down that track. My mom was a stay at home mom. For the most part. And so it was just a value that I really had. And in the eighties, when we got married, it was very much the working woman or the stay at home mom.
There was almost a tension, a media fight.
Mark: Yeah. There was a book that somehow circulated through our church and a few other sources called What’s a Smart Woman Like You Doing At Home. I’ll always remember the title of that book. And it was written by these three women who all had masters and PhDs who had chosen to stay home.
And they were sort of having to defend that choice at the time of that culture. Right? Like the thought was. And I think today we’re hopefully a little better place where there seems to be more mutual respect. Some women who have lots of education or, or experience in work, choose to stay home. Other women choose to go back and both choices are, I think, much more accepted and respected.
It is sort of been like all women stayed home and then. All women were supposed to go to work. And then it took us a little while to kind of try to get to a place where there’s hopefully more balance in that. So,
Kathy: yeah. Yeah. True. I have a master’s degree and there was a man that said one time, I think I worked and then I was home some, so we.
Some of that dependent on what Mark was doing, but our journey was up and down and I primarily wanted . To be with them, but I wanted to work, too. I wanted my mind challenged and you know, something about preschoolers just kind of, um, will suck you dry. You know, even though I loved a lot of it, but this man said, well, what a waste of an education.
And I was like, I, I would have to disagree. I was like, is there something wrong with a bright, educated woman raising children, but yeah, it’s too bad that we’ve had this kind of either or approach and,
Marj: well, I think it’s less like that now. And I probably have less of that attitude. Now that I’m a lot older.
Mark: Yeah. I think early on, if you had asked us, we weren’t sure how my career was going to develop. I think Marj would have thought, like her mom and my mom actually had been full-time stay-at-home moms when we were young and then had both worked later on when we were like teenagers and I think Marj would have thought that’s probably what I’ll do.
We’ll kind of be at home with the early stages and then maybe work later, she, like you had thought about going for advanced degree at one point and yeah, just the path ended up not going that way, but yeah.
Kathy: As with much of life. Right,
Mark: exactly. Exactly.
Kathy: Um, I had a couple that I did an interview with recently and he was talking about the value of our spouse seeing our strengths that sometimes we don’t see.
And how great it is to have that cheerleader, somebody that cheers us on when we’re down or having a bad day, or even if we’re having a good day, but they can see the best in us. I’m curious what you see about the other, what would you see as like a super power of the other?
Marj: I think for Mark, he’s very even keeled on the happy plane.
Like he up here on happy plane. And so he rarely goes down. He rarely dips down about things that he just, that’s just not in him to do that. And we have a daughter, one of our kids is like that, that, um, she just, that’s just not her thing. She doesn’t go into the depression zone. And, um, so that’s a superpower of him because he doesn’t get derailed by things that other people get derailed.
You know, and, um, it’s not always understood because he has a sense of humor. And so I think they could think he’s just, you know, he should be reacting more to something in a more negative way. And, um, but it’s helped him with leadership really immensely.
Mark: Okay. Yeah. Mar Marj is an incredible student of people. Like she she’s less outgoing than me, but partly I think, cause, cause she’s always, she was an anthropology major and I think there was a reason she picked that right.
Kind of it’s the study of people in groups, in fact, sociology, anthropology, that whole family. And I think she she’s always incredibly observant about what’s happening and the interdynamics. She was very astute as our kids were going through, especially some of the challenging teen years of when, when they needed what, right.
Sometimes they needed a kick in the pants. Sometimes they needed a hug. Sometimes I would get those two backwards. Um, I think there was a sense of, she just has always been a very, like if I’m not sure about people, I’ll kind of go, what do you think of that person or that relationship or that like, she’ll cut, cut right to the heart of what’s going on.
And she’s got a very, very good sense of people. Yeah.
Kathy: Awesome. Okay. Well, give us a little snapshot of the McClain family currently. Where do you guys live? You have kids. Are they grown?
Marj: Yeah. We live in downtown Austin in a high rise, as empty nesters. We have three adult children. Our sons, the oldest is 32 and he is married and has three kids.
And he’s a high school teacher and football coach in Texas. And he’s just always, that’s always what he wanted to do. And then our middle daughter is married to her husband and they have two children and they live in south Austin and our son lives like north Austin with his family. And then we have a youngest daughter who’s married and they have their first daughter and they live in Birmingham, Alabama.
Kathy: So you’re close
Mark: If you keep track that’s 5 grandkids in Austin and one in Birmingham.
Kathy: Wow. What a rich life!
Mark: Very, very blessed.
Kathy: That is great. And how long have you guys been married?
Marj: Thirty-five years.
Mark: Seven days. Seven days.
Kathy: Congratulations. What’d you guys do to celebrate?
Marj: We were down at the beach in Florida. Just two of us.
Usually it’s a group thing that we did the two of us.
Kathy: Yay. Awesome. Well, congratulations. That is really big. Good, great celebration. Yeah. And so Marj, you were saying, you, you have not worked outside of the home. Your job was in the home. I, I never want to say you didn’t work, you worked a lot, like seven days a week.
Marj: I used to say my job was getting juice in those little Tupperware sippy cups. That was my job. I can’t use,
we give them water. So
Mark: I mean, your, your work got obsoleted overtime.
Kathy: Yes. They grew up. They moved away. And so what, what do you focus your time on now? How do you, what’s a rhythm of your day?
Marj: Well, let’s see, I I’m a slow person in the morning. I have to have my wake-up time or I run into walls. I really do. I can’t focus.
It takes me a little while to get it going. And then, um, I’ve had to work on, you know, like exercise and health because being 58 now. So I need to take care of that or because I want to be strong enough to help with the grandkids and pick them up and grab them from running out in the street if I have to.
And so, um, and then I spent one day a week with one family, if I’m in town, helping with the grandkids and then another day a week, and then I’ll travel and help with my daughter in Alabama. So do a lot of that. And then I do some volunteer stuff at church, and then. I just started volunteering at community first, which is a tiny homeless home community.
That’s really a neat program. So I just started helping with that a little bit once a week. So, and Mark’s an extremely, extrovert and a very busy guy. And I just find myself signed up for things all the time that I haven’t signed up for . So
Mark: I mostly remembered to ask almost always,
Kathy: or is it easier to ask forgiveness than permission or
Mark: first about 20 years that worked and then for the last 15, not so much. So
Kathy: she’s like I’m on to you.
Mark: I’m learning permission is now more important than it used to be.
Kathy: Awesome. All right. Well, let’s get a little bit of your story and mark.
I know you’ve, you’ve been interviewed a lot about the businesses and everything, and we’ll get like a brief overview, but I want to get to the beginning of your story. When you guys married, did you guys meet in college or how did you
Marj: meet? We met right after college in 1984, both working and volunteering for the LA Olympics.
The summer Olympics. So we had both just graduated from college and it was this program that you could apply through your college, as seniors to work at the Olympics and we both happen to do
Mark: that. And
Marj: we didn’t know each other. We didn’t, he was in San Diego and I was up the Claremont colleges in California.
Kathy: So yeah, I know where that is. We used to live in Upland. Well,
Mark: right there.
Yeah. Marj went to Pitzer or the Claremont and I went to Point Loma, a little Christian school down in San Diego. We both kind of thought we had graduated college unattached, which we technically had and kind of had both just ironically signed up for this thing.
Marj: it was, we, it was, you had to write an essay and it was being a page at the Olympics, but then it turns out we actually did the award ceremony. So I carried the gold medal on the pillow in 84 track and field. And he raised the flags for swimming and diving. And then we got to be in the opening ceremonies and the closing ceremonies, you know, w we wore these dresses.
By Bob Mackey that were like Southern bell looking and we waved to the crowd.
Kathy: Oh my goodness.
Marj: And they were our escorts and we released doves. I mean, it was very fun.
Mark: It was a super fun thing for recently graduated college seniors. You’re not quite sure what they’re going to do next to do. Go hang out at the Olympics for three weeks and
Kathy: what a great life opportunity.
Mark: So awesome. Yeah. So, and I, I spied her. Uh, early on in some of our training stuff we were doing, and I begged the lady who ran our program to get me her phone number and she wouldn’t do it. And I, I, I demonstrated my early sales prowess by selling her on why she should give me that phone number and, uh, got her phone number.
And yeah, we, we went out on one epic first date, uh, after having met briefly at probably the Olympic event things. And then like, after like that epic first date, we were both like, Ooh, this could get serious epic, epic. Firstly, it was the beach for six hours, then Disneyland for eight hours then sitting in her driveway, parked and talking for like three hours.
Literally our first date was like 19 hours. It was a marathon, it was a marathon. It was like, I really like hanging
out with you.
Marj: And I met your family. I had to go to his house, change into a bikini to go to the beach, and meet his parents on the first day that I don’t know what I was
Kathy: That was a lot going on.
Mark: Yeah. That’s amazing.
We survived that first few weeks, but yeah, pretty serious, pretty fast. We were both living in LA at that time and then yeah. got engaged and, and lived in LA early on in our marriage and yeah, go from there. But yeah, it was, uh, it was kind of a, I tell you, it was a lot more fun than telling people you met your spouse at taco bell or McDonald’s like, sounds so cool.
Kathy: That’s a fun story. So when you got married, um, I read somewhere Mark, that your initial plan was to go to law school. And so what were the expectations about work and what were you doing? Marj, and
Marj: like, I was working for the Olympics selling tickets. Also, I needed a job to stay that summer. Cause I, my family was in Hawaii, so I had to support my stay there and he did not have a job.
Mark: was waiting to find out about law school,
Marj: waiting to find out about law school. And, um, yeah, so my parents weren’t too impressed at first, you know?
Mark: Yeah. Like I’ve gone to some little no-name Christian college. Her parents were sort of Ivy leaguers. I had no job. I was living at home with my parents cause I’d come back home waiting to figure out what was going to happen next.
Um, got wait. So the law school, Kathy, I got, wait, I only applied to UCLA and UC Berkeley. I kept that. If I’m going to go, I’m going to go to some of the best schools in the LA or California area. And I got wait-listed at both and ultimately didn’t get into either. So I didn’t find that out till late that summer, like, oh, I guess I got to get a job.
So it kind of started down the path of looking for a job and back to the I wasn’t an entrepreneur, I, found with some family connections and then some interviews and a whole bunch of longer story. My first job was at IBM in 1985, which at the time was a coop like working for IBM in the eighties. It was, it was, it was a, yeah, it did it for life.
Marj: You got
Mark: in very difficult place to get a job. It was, it was, I would tell the young people take, it was kind of the Google, facebook of its day. I know you don’t think that now, but in 1985, IBM was the biggest baddest technology company there was. And I was like, super awesome. I got a job here. I’ll work here for 35 years.
I’ll maybe get to move up the ranks a little bit and retire, yea with a pension.
Marj: And, and his, his parents were not in the business world. His mom did teaching and his dad was a social worker. So they had no idea
how to help him.
Mark: They were the furthest
thing from business or entrepreneurial. Interesting. There’s no business heritage there, no family business heritage.
They couldn’t. Couldn’t believe of we’ll get to the later story of becoming an entrepreneur, they could not believe I was going to leave places like that. I would leave a place like IBM or HP, big stable, you know, predictable company. Why would you ever leave that and go take a flyer on small business? Why would you do that?
Kathy: How did you make that jump?
Marj: Well, part my perspective was, my dad did, um, was in the Navy and that’s how I ended up growing up in Hawaii. But he got out when I was like four and went into the reserves and then he did new business development, a lot of like ocean technology and in the energy field, electric vehicles, hydrofoil.
So he was, he had that going on and my mom was very supportive of all that. So I grew up seeing that the higher risk type of, um, job. And there’s one time in, he took a job with Boeing in Seattle that didn’t work out. And we ended up during the energy crisis and it was through hydrofoils. And that didn’t fly because we don’t have hydrofoils very many today.
And, um, so he was at without work or doing consulting. So I saw him not have work because he took a risk and my mom had to go back to work because of it. So I had that understanding of what that all meant is basically what I’m saying. Cause I saw it growing
Mark: No, there was, I was the one who ultimately decided I would sort of take the risk of being entrepreneurial.
But I don’t know that I would have done that if Marj hadn’t sort of said, I could get behind this. Cause in my family, I don’t, I love my mom. She, she died many years ago, but like my mom had she been my wife would not have been supportive of this. I don’t think I, it was not the cloth that she and her family and my dad’s family had ever come out of.
They just had never done those kinds of things. And so the fact that I had had a pretty good early run in these corporate type jobs that kind of came to the conclusion, this just wasn’t where I really wanted to be, started talking about initially, by the way, the interim story was, I left after 10 years at IBM and HP,
in California. What got us to Texas to Austin was a then fairly high flying startup here in Austin called Tivoli. One of the early tech success stories in central Texas, kind of, you know, most people think tech in central Texas only happened in last 10 years. It’s been around for a longer time, but it wasn’t real big back then.
And so this was one of those early successes. So I came from having worked at these giant corporations. Tivoli had, I think 200 people when I came and joined it. So it was like, you know, orders and orders of magnitude smaller than where I had been. And I got the bug, I’m like, this is fun. So stayed there for awhile.
Tivoli grew really big, turned out actually to get acquired by IBM, funny twist of fate. But, um, I sort of had the bug at that point. So then ultimately some friends and I did leave to start a company in 2000, but by then I sort of had a sense of what it would actually be like to be an entrepreneur and start a venture backed company or, uh, and, and Marj had always been like, if that’s what you think you want to try, you know, I’m with you, We’ll give it a shot.
Marj: I did have
stipulations. Like I said, I mean, how it was financially set up. He, you can explain that. But I said, I want the kids’ college money. I D I that’s all I want, you know, I can live in an apartment. I, you know, we can do all that stuff, but we’re not going to go to that level where we cannot send our kids, to college.
Mark: The whole, like, I know Kathy, some of the entrepreneurs you talked to, they’re what I call kind of true classic entrepreneurs,, like mortgage the house, run up credit cards, take a huge personal financial risk.
We didn’t w we did what’s called venture backed, right? So there were venture capitalists put money in. So I, I took a big cut from what I had been making as a, by then it kind of a mid-level executive, believe it or not at IBM back to a much lower salary. Oh, yeah, but it wasn’t like we were destitute or running up credit card bills to try to get this business off the ground.
We had taken external money. So there was a little bit of risk coverage from a financial standpoint, there was a risk that the business might not work out, of course. And if it didn’t, I’d have to go get another job again, you know, but it wasn’t like we were putting the, I know that’s part of what you talk about.
Some of these things, like the stress on our marriage, wasn’t financial. It was a sacrifice of sorts to kind of go back from having made a lot more money to less, but it wasn’t like, we were like, oh gosh, we might lose our house if this business doesn’t work out. It wasn’t ever like,
Marj: Cause he had deals at IBM at the time.
Like if we had stayed through April, they were called the golden handcuffs. You got this, you got this bigger package. So he was leaving quite a bit of money on the
Mark: So that was hard, but again, I’d call that a, a sacrifice with quotes, right? Like, yeah. I had to give something up, but it wasn’t like I was putting my family and our ability to have a home or pay the bills or put food on the table.
We didn’t take that kind of entrepreneurial risk, to be fair. Yeah.
Kathy: So when you left Mark and so was Tivoli already started,
Mark: or really, when I joined Tivoli was small, but this is so funny. The world’s changed so much. It was going public right as I got here. But in those days, You know, it went public with a few hundred people and about 30 million in revenue, which totally could not happen today, but, but it was some small and had really good growth prospects.
So I joined then. We grew really well for year, then IBM bought it and all of a sudden it just exploded inside IBM, but it still felt fairly entrepreneurial. So it was an interesting chance for me to see what kind of a high growth entrepreneurial type company felt like. Even though technically I was there for five years, four of the five years we were owned by IBM, but it always felt like we were kind of an independent business.
And so when, when three other friends and I decided to start the company with some venture backing, it was because I think at that point I felt like, okay, I’ve seen this. I kind of get what it would take. We’re still not guaranteed of success at all, but it’s like, I think we all kind of get it. And I think you said Mark started his first business at 40, I think I was 38 when we started, oh,
Marj: you went into an incubation phase with Austin ventures, which.
Mark: Yeah, they gave us kind of a as a lower level salary. So we wouldn’t have to live on that.
Marj: And they, they actually came up with their idea in this incubation period.
Mark: It was about as low risk as a venture approach as we could have had from a financial risk standpoint. And, you know, we came up with an idea that they thought was worth backing.
There was always the chance that at the end of a few months of banging around ideas, there was nothing that they would turn their back. Then we would have to go back and just get jobs.
Marj: I don’t remember being worried about that though. Like extremely
Mark: what was funny, Kathy, and I want to go too deep into this story more than you want, but this is when there’s this concept called the first tech bubble burst.
Like, you know, there was the crazy.com late nineties era. We started this company right at the beginning of 2000 and a few months into that, we hadn’t even really launched at all. We hadn’t taken much real venture yet. We hadn’t hired very many people, this whole bubble burst, they called it. And all of a sudden it’s like, nobody wanted to start new tech companies because all of them were blowing up all over the landscape.
So there was a little bit of, uh oh, this may have been really bad timing to do this. Sure.
Marj: But that’s where his positive personality worked out because I probably wasn’t as aware or scared cause he didn’t let on. Yeah.
Mark: Yeah. We’ll figure something out. Yeah.
Kathy: So let me, uh, camp there for just a minute, because I think this is one of the really challenging places of the entrepreneur journey.
The spouse that is not, I mean, I’ve, I’ve interviewed some spouses where they work together, let’s start something or they have different roles in the company and many others that, like you Marj, you, you had another whole role skillset. That was not part of the startup. How much did you guys talk about what was happening or was it need to know?
Did you want to know Marj, or did it?
Marj: I knew about it and, okay. So there’s been two companies, so I’m getting them mixed up, but I, I don’t remember doubting it or it just was good enough for me kind of, you know, because I was getting to do the role that I wanted to do. It didn’t seem to be directly affecting
our lifestyle hugely. So,
Mark: uh, it’s probably what I was, I was, um, telling her, which I wasn’t fabricating it to make her feel better. I think I believed it really, which was look, the ultimate safety net here is I’m pretty employable. Right? So if this thing just doesn’t work, I can go get another job. I was pretty confident, like, based on what had happened to Tivoli, I’d had a good run there.
I ultimately left as the VP of marketing. So I kind of risen a few layers and I had a big enough job and had a good enough reputation in town. I thought, okay, the real downside risk here is this company doesn’t work. We lose money that we could have made if I’d stayed at IBM and I’d have to go figure out how to get a job again, but also again, it didn’t feel like a, oh, my I’m putting my family or my wife or my, you know, a great risk that way.
It was just like, well, if this doesn’t work out, I’ll probably have to go get a job, but that’s okay. I could probably get a job. You know, that was the downside risk.
Kathy: Okay. Yeah, uh, Mark and I’ve had some of those conversations along the way, like what is the worst case scenario? And once you kind of digest that, I mean we had that conversation a year ago when COVID hit and, you know, we have an assisted living business, so it was a little risky after the business has been well established, but yeah, it’s just interesting how different couples approach that differently.
And, um, I get the sense that there’s a, a team approach
Marj: I was always taught. I know it goes back to my background, like it, how I was educated as a child and everything was what your greatest asset is your ability to ask questions and, you know, the critical thinking thing that, just a little scary that we aren’t doing that as much, but, you know, to figure out your answers, you know, we’ll figure this out in your, so your greatest asset is your brain basically.
Mark: Oh, sorry to cut you off. You know, you’re a counselor by training, right? I think a lot of what we’re poking around here with, I haven’t said the word is fear, right? Like there’s, there’s a fear that comes up when people consider taking a step like this, right. And sort of what we’re talking about is how do you deal with that fear?
One of the best way. I think of all fear. I’m not a psychologist. Don’t play one on TV, but there’s a sense of, well, one of the biggest things I know people hear from counselors about fear is like you just said, you go to that, what’s the worst that can happen here. Face that fear, kind of name it, figure out how scary it really is.
And a lot of times people don’t do things because they have these unrealistic fears of what could go wrong. And I think we were mature enough back to starting a business at 38. We weren’t like 28 or even 23. Right. I’d been working for 15, 16 years. It’s like, okay, I’ve seen a bit of the world I’ve seen business.
I think the worst has happens here is this business doesn’t make it. And there’s a little bit of tarnish on my record, but I could probably go get a job. So like, okay. I could totally face that fear. And Marj understood like, there’s probably no scenario where we have to lose our house, or now there was that whole, we got to figure out how to get college paid for that we talked about earlier.
Right. But she was like, as long as the path we’re on, somehow make sure that we can send our kids to college kind of high value of education in her family and mine as well. Like, okay. Then I don’t think we’re on a path here that puts that at great risk either. Right? Like somehow some way we’ll figure out how to get our kids through college.
Kathy: Yeah. Well, good. Yeah, because I, I was in a Facebook group. Um, the entrepreneur’s spouse I think is called and it’s interesting. Some of the women that it’s all women, um, will share stories about their husband who has started something and they have, they’ve mortgaged the house. They can’t pay bills. You know, they list this long.
List of things that is not happening for their family, and they’re not available to help raise the children that they’ve had together. And they can’t seem to say, okay, this is not going to go. They just keep banging their head against the wall. Um, so yeah, I think it’s important to have that worst case scenario idea.
Mark: Well, and, and like the kind of story you just described, I’m afraid this, this, you know, there’s a lot of debates about the pros and cons of raising outside capital, venture capital, even friends and family capital versus bootstrapping, doing it yourself. One of the things that people forget of the advantages of outside money?
Like at some point you have to start delivering or the money gets cut off. Sadly, a lot of times, these ugly stories are when it’s just the entrepreneur bootstrapping and they, they just keep believing somehow some way they’re going to make it work. And it’s like a gambler who goes to Vegas with no limit.
Like, like people, like, I’m not a big gambling fan, but if you go and treat it like entertainment, I’m going to, I’m going to take a thousand dollars. Like that’s my entertainment value of Vegas. And as long as you, you don’t spend more than a thousand. Now you may be done in an hour. I don’t know the rest of the weekend in Vegas, but if you limit it, like if more people went into entrepreneurship saying, here’s how far I’m willing to go.
And if I get to that point and we’re not successful, I’m stopping. That, sadly people, no, no, no, this will, I think we’re almost there. We’re about to make it work and they keep mortgaging more, borrowing more. And, and thankfully as a venture backed entrepreneur, we never had that. Like, there was no sense of trashing our own family in the pursuit of this entrepreneurial dream.
It’s like, this will either work or the venture guys just won’t give us more money and the company will be over right there. It was kind of a black and white thing in that way.
Kathy: So it’s
kind of a hard limit. Like when the money’s gone, if you’re not making money, we’re not going to keep throwing money at it.
Yeah. That’s a good perspective. Yeah, helpful to see. So you started, uh, w what was the name of the company that you started in 2005?
Mark: That was called Waveset was, it was a similar market space. The companies I’ve been involved with for these 20 years now, have been kind of tech companies focused on generally call an element of the security landscape called identity.
If you just think about how to keep track of all the passwords and accounts that people need at work. You know, we all have these at home, right? We all have accounts and passwords to login. If you think about that in a business to business context, you’re working at, you know, big bank or the government or big retailer or whatever people that work in those places, they have a lot of systems, they need access and a lot of accounts.
And you know, there’s a lot of complexity keeping track of all that. The companies we’ve been involved with have all been in that realm of what’s called identity management. Like who are the identities you care about and what do they have access to at work? And how do you keep that accurate as people change jobs or they leave the company or the businesses mergers with other businesses.
There’s just a lot of complexity in that realm and the enterprise world. That’s where we’ve been for about 20 years in a couple of different companies.
Kathy: Okay. I always find it interesting too. How people’s interests have evolved? I mean, here you went from, you thought you wanted to be an attorney, then you went to IBM and w.
Was that in sales?
Mark: I always said I don’t like computers and I don’t think I’m very good at sales. So the last thing I’ve ever thought would be selling for a computer company and guess what? That’s exactly where I landed.
Kathy: So did you have strengths that you just weren’t aware of yet, do you think Mark, or how do you explain that evolution?
Mark: Um, some of both, I think I had been involved in a lot of leadership stuff over the years, but not again, not entrepreneurial forms of leadership. I, you know, student council and, you know, those kinds of and being the captain of various sports team, like I was kind of a leader by style. Like people tended to gravitate to me that way as a leader, but I was often not the top leader and I always kind of thought I’ll be a good number two to somebody or all.
I’ll help something, but again, in the business context, I just kind of went into the business community thinking I’ll never do my own thing. I’ll just work for businesses. Right. Big companies. Um, so I think, yeah, there was definitely some learning along the way, in a way, some mentoring of people saying, I think you could do this or getting close enough to some of it and meeting some people and going, oh, now that I see that up, close it back to our fear thing that doesn’t look as scary as I thought it was.
Um, and again, I think just learning and listening along the way, there’s, there’s a spiritual dimension to this of trying to listen to where God was leading us. And what doors were opening or not opening, just kind of important personal part of this story. I guess I’ll interject here. My mom died pretty early of cancer and that’s when we were in Northern California.
And I’ve often wondered, you know, we had only two of our three kids at that point. Um, and I stayed another year at HP and that’s what I then took the job to come to Austin to work for Tivoli. And I don’t know that I would have taken the risks, quote, unquote, to move and do some of that. If my mom had stayed alive, I think we would have still been more gravitated to staying in California.
It’s still, might’ve gone down a entrepreneurial path. It’s just like, It’s one of those, um, those things where, uh, there’s a passage, you and I both know that talks about, you know, all things work together for good, um, not and people misunderstand that Bible passage. It’s not that all things are good, that God can work good out of all things, including some things that are negative.
When my mom passed away at 57, which sounds a lot younger now that I’m 58. Um, uh, like when I was 32 57, sounded like a good life. Um, not too. Um, and, and so there was a sense of, okay, that was a bad thing, right? It wasn’t good for my mom to die that early at all, but it did, I think in a weird way, open our minds to thinking about maybe not needing to stay in California, being willing to make a move, you know, get Marj said she grew up in Hawaii.
I grew up in Southern California. If you’d asked us if we’d ever live in Texas, when we were young, we have gone, why on earth would we ever move to Texas?
Marj: Where’s the water.
I grew up on an island, like it was either Malka or Mikaila towards the water or towards the mountain. So I like, I still have no sense of direction. North, south, east west don’t even bother with that because I can’t, I, my brain doesn’t do it.
Kathy: Just tell me where the beach is.
Marj: Yeah. If I know where the coastline is, I can figure it out.
Mark: But we did mention that for our anniversary last week, we were in Florida. We finally learned that from Texas, the best beaches we can get to are kind of in that coast, Gulf coast of Florida. So we go there a lot to get to those beaches.
Marj: But, I think you were more tied to not
moving than I was.
Mark: Yeah. I think Marj having come from at least some military family background was more fluid. She didn’t grow up around a lot of extended family.A whole a lot of our rooted family. Both sides were in California by that point. And so I, I wasn’t sure I was willing to move.
It’s not that I was necessarily dead set against it. It just never really occurred to me. Like most people were coming to California from somewhere else. Like why would I leave California? I’m already here. Right? Yeah. So yeah, it was kind of a, I think that circumstance had at least something to do with us being willing.
At least maybe more me being willing to come. And even then, honestly, we thought it was temporary. I think we thought we’ll try it for a few years. We’ll probably move back. You know?
Marj: Well, you didn’t get the job the first round,
Mark: actually I interviewed once in 93 and didn’t get a job here.
Marj: And then they called him back up and I came like,
I guess you were the second choice.
And that guy hadn’t worked out. So
Kathy: yeah. And that was the Tivoli
Mark: that was coming to work for, you know, kind of back to how do people make these choices and whether they pursue entrepreneurial things, sometimes the path is anything but straight and clear it up right back. It all kind of makes sense. But looking forward, not so much.
Kathy: Yeah. And in your, maybe it’s in the foreword of your book or a description of the book, but you really do credit Marj for being the one that, uh, I think the quote is she was instrumental in helping me step out of my comfort zone and have the confidence to pursue an entrepreneurial journey. So Marj what
Mark: I wrote that down
Kathy: It’s in writing all over the place!
Mark: I distinctly remember Marj having a gun to my head.
Kathy: What were you seeing Marj that you wanted to encourage that aspect of him?
Marj: Common sense. Like he had gone while he was at IBM. He had gotten his MBA, while he was working. They had this program at UCLA. And so I’m like, well, you got this business degree. So I didn’t feel. I felt like if you want to use your degree to be a businessman, you know, I don’t, I didn’t feel I had the right to hold him back from taking that risk, especially Mark’s a really good talker.
He’s very good convincer
Kathy: Good salesman!
Mark: I talked her into marrying me! Best
Marj: I hadn’t thought about that, but yeah,
this all happened. I have no idea. I’ve been bamboozled. That’s what happened.
Kathy: And now I know the title for your podcast. The couple that was bamboozled.
Marj: Our little grandson who. When you first started talking, his first line was like, how’d that happen? You know? And he would always say that. So that’s what we always say with this company, with the success for like, how’d that happen?
Mark: So we often feel like we’re watching ourselves in a movie.
We talk about that all the time. Like, how on earth did this happen? What are we doing here?
Marj: Cause it, it was winging it. And it was, it was somewhat of an adventure. And because I had left Hawaii to go to college. And so I was told, raised to go places, explore the world. My other sisters went to other, all over the mainland colleges.
So it’s, it was, and Mark hadn’t grown up like that. He’d grown up in Church of Christ. So going to San Diego was a big deal from LA I’m like big whoop, but that’s his family. It was. It was like, we came from very different backgrounds is basically what happened with that. And, yeah, so I just was, why wouldn’t you try?
And, you know, I was, I made myself comfortable with it not being successful.
Mark: I think Marj mentioned that story of seeing her dad have some success, have some, I’ll say failure, just lack of great success for a little while. And it was hard for their family for a little while. And then they saw themselves kind of get back on their feet at some level.
And she kind of that sort of like, again, if that’s the, that’s the worst that can happen and we didn’t even see it, the point I finally tried this, that, that scenario was actually very likely that I would actually be out of work for an extended time and unable to find something like that. It just didn’t look at all.
Like that was a likely outcome for us, right?
Kathy: Yeah. Well, when you look at the failure rate of startups, it’s pretty darn high. So the chances are quite good that it’s not going to make it. So I
Marj: don’t know why I didn’t even look at the failure rates at the time. I mean, I really. No, no
Kathy: It’s all gonna be fine, honey.
Kathy: Well, and then you started the company in 2005. We all know what happened in 2008. And how did that impact your company?
Mark: Well, yeah. And real quick reverse, just to tell them the story happened twice. The last time we started in 00, , and of course late ’01 is 911. We get through that. The company has a decent exit.
They call it right. We sold that business to Sun, a big tech company of that era. Then we start this one and again, as you said, Kathy, two, three years into it, like, oh, another big crisis in the landscape. So in both cases, it was sort of that kind of like Marj that I guess I I’m gifted with a pretty high level of optimism of okay.
Somehow some way we’ll figure this out and, and, you know, building a. We haven’t talked about it probably won’t on this call much, but just big, big on company culture and hiring the right kind of people and building the right kind of comradery on a team. And then when you do that, You sort of get to see those things tested and proven in a, in a crisis.
And, um, I think we, we just saw, saw the company, even though it was pretty little back in those days, 25, 30 people, I think, um, in the 2008 crisis, just we had to weather a pretty tough crisis. We sorta hunkered down. We, um, just kind of said, okay, we’re going to kind of hold onto each other and get through this.
And we can stretch out our money to last longer and kind of get a handful of customers. And then if we can make it through this storm, uh, you know, we’ll be okay. Funny how that I hadn’t thought about that comparison to the pandemic that much, but you know, similar thing, like let’s just hold on and get through this.
Cause it isn’t going to last forever. Whatever else is true, it’s not going to last forever, might last longer than we want, but it won’t last forever
Marj: and there, there all, it wasn’t always smooth sailing though. There were some downtimes and the hardest times for Mark, which is when I did see him. Yeah. When he was quieter, which is that’s unusual for him.
And when he w I, it scared me because I’m like, Ooh, it’s not good if he’s not being as positive. And it was when they had to lay off some people to cut costs at one point, because the numbers weren’t right on financially. And he hated that. It was really like scary for him. He felt a huge responsibility to, and knows the people that work for him.
They’re all, he’s also the company supporting families. And, you know, it’s it, that was very hard on him to see him go through that.
Kathy: Yeah. And every marriage has ups and downs, right. Every. Every every marriage has good seasons, has hard seasons and we learn and we grow together. But when you add the entrepreneurial piece over that, and just as you said, the reality that those jobs, you’re responsible for these jobs.
And I’d love to hear a little more about, um, how you guys handled that together, how you faced that challenge together as a couple.
Marj: Well, I mean, our
faith is huge,
Mark: right? I have a phrase I sometimes use, you know, small God, big problems, big God, small problems, you know, there’s a sense of, okay, well, whatever we’re facing, how are we going to get through that?
And I think, you know, something we haven’t talked about, some of this entrepreneurial journey was when our family was younger and the kids were smaller. And I think that that’s an interesting dynamic, right? Because on the one hand I would have some weighty things sometimes like I was dealing with at work, but I also knew I had.
I had to ultimately expected an ask Marge to take a bit of a heavier load. I was a pretty involved dad given that I was an entrepreneur, but not as involved for instance, as my dad had been around the house because he worked at more traditional nine to five job. And so there was some trade-offs and there were times I thought, well, I can’t come dump this on Marge.
Cause she’s got her own load. She’s carrying with three young kids and a lot of responsibility with that. So there were times it was hard.
Marj: Isn’t so much the workload, like I’m a pretty industrial person. So like it wasn’t that it wasn’t the maintaining a family and all that. It was more, I was really good at nagging him to step in when something was going on with the kids.
Right. Like morally, ethically, socially development thing, which I thought was like a serious time, even though it was on a child’s level, it was a big deal to that kid. And you got, you got to go and have that conversation and, and he’s always done that. Responded to that, you know?
Mark: Yeah, back to the perception thing.
I was pretty tuned in dad, but Marj was more tuned in to the kids. And so I think we, maybe it was sort of tacit. I don’t know how much we talked about it sometimes, but it sort of developed like, Hey, I’m available to you now. I’m not always going to pick up on everything you pick up on. But if I need to step in, I will step in.
And sometimes it wasn’t perfect back to the entrepreneurial sacrifices Kathy that you’ve talked about. I’ve told people, look, you know, I can’t tell you. You’ll never miss anything. You probably will. As an entrepreneur, miss some things. I don’t feel like I ever missed anything really big. Um, you know, I didn’t miss a graduation or a big game or a big concert or a big, like, I didn’t make every game.
I didn’t make everything, but I made a lot, but I think Marj knew like, If I, if I needed to be there, I need to be there right then kind of thing, if I could, or if not soon, like I wasn’t gonna, Hey, sorry. I’m really busy for the next month. I can’t, I can’t get right. There was no sense of, Hey, you got to handle this because I’m so busy being this important entrepreneur.
It was like, look, I’ve got my, like Marj said we sorta came to this division of responsibilities thing, I guess kind of, but it was still teamwork. Totally. Still teamwork.
Kathy: How did you address that with your kids? I’m curious, like, did you, did they know what you do for work or is it just dad’s gone? We don’t know what he’s doing and he’s not here.
Marj: They’re very aware of
Mark: it at one level. I think once early on. I left like one of my little ones, whichever one, it was, they were still pretty little. What did, what do you think I do you go to meetings and talk on the phone? It’s like, okay, that’s pretty accurate actually, as a manager and a leader of a company, you go to meetings and talk on the phone.
But, but yeah, I tried to get them fairly involved and aware and Marj mentioned it briefly earlier. You know, all of our kids are awesome. One of them more favors my personality, two of have them a little more hers. And we sort of figured that out early on and kind of figured out how to try to relate to both the ones that were like us and the ones that were more like our spouse.
And I think we we’d have all three of them tell you, honestly, they have really great relationships with both of us cause we worked at it. Um,
Marj: well we talked about parenting a lot. Like we did, you know, trying to creatively parent.
Mark: Yeah. Yeah. We both had a high commitment to that. We were involved in, in, in groups, at church where there was a peer group, you know, young families, young parents where always, there were peers to kind of bounce things off of.
And generally somebody who was a mentor, like older couple, who was helping give us some guidance. We were very blessed to have a lot of that along our journey. And now of course, we’ve tried to do that, be mentors to younger families and younger parents and such. But yeah, I think, I think we looked w we’re I guess a word I’ve used on this that I felt like is important to intentionality, right?
We were intentional about, these are important things we’re gonna invest time and energy here. And to your point, Kathy, that sometimes meant sacrifices relative to work, like it was a trick, sometimes work caused sacrifices at home. Sometimes home caused sacrifices at work and we, we kind of negotiated those trade-offs all the time.
It wasn’t one sided. It wasn’t like work, always wins home sacrifices. It
Marj: was, it wasn’t always easy for him to do, but I’m tenacious. About certain things. I’m like, you’re, you’re not, this is, we have to do this, you know, you have, you have to be part of this cause, um, it would be that emergency urgent in mind and yeah.
Kathy: it sounds like keeping the priorities, not that they weren’t priorities for you, Mark, but it’s easy. I would imagine to get just, you know, what’s urgent is right in front of you and knowing and trusting Marj to handle everything at home, but parenting is a two-person process, right? Yeah. Yeah.
Mark: And then again, we have a son and two daughters, right? I’d say as, as our son, who’s the oldest, but more like Marj’s personality, as he got to being a young team. Even kind of late preteen I think she figured out he was going to want to more connect with me. Cause he was, he was not a mama’s boy. Right.
Very kind of macho ended up playing football all the way through college coaches football. He’s he’s not a meat head, but he was kind of a, I want to be a strong, manly man type guy. And so yeah, strong, godly, manly man. And he’s like, so I need to hang around with dad because that’s how I’m going to learn to be a man.
I love my mom, but I don’t want to hang around so I can learn to be a man. So yeah, personality wise, I didn’t as easily relate to him cause he was pretty different personality than me and a lot of ways. And, and the reverse with my middle daughter, Rachel, who’s more like my personality. But, but because she was a girl, mom spent a lot of time getting her through those teen years, which are, yeah.
Marj: Oh, she was, she was sunshine and rainbows though.
Mark: Oh yeah. But you had some work you had to do with both girls. I mean, kids are kids. They have to negotiate the whole social minefield and there’s some tricks out there. And we,
Marj: I grew up with all girls. So having a son was really a big deal to me. And then he kind of like, middle school.
It was like, you know, that’s it, mom, this isn’t your territory. And I had to choose, I remember specifically choosing not to be hurt by that rejection because I wanted him to become a man. I didn’t want him to always, you know, need me. I wanted him to need, his wife, not me. You know, I, I, it was like, So I specifically tried to be respectful of that, instead of getting manipulating him or doing the guilt thing on him to get him back.
And, you know, in my collection, I really was like watching this little man grow up and it was like, I could really mess this up because I knew how much he loved me too, so I can play the guilt game on him. I thought about it a lot. I think about the cycle, you’re therapist, you know, this stuff. And so I, that’s what I’ve tried to think about all that and intentionally not do that to my son.
Kathy: Right. Our job is to work ourselves out of a job and give them roots and wings. Yeah. It sounds like you guys did that well. Um, you talked a little bit about one of the times, it was really hard Marj, just watching him, having to lay off some people and how, just gut-wrenching. That is so hard. What about a high point in this entrepreneurial journey and starting at what became SailPoint?
What’s been a high point for each of you?
Marj: You go first.
Mark: Oh man, it’s gonna make you go first. Um, need to think. Well, you know, there’s some business high points that are sort of, well-documented hard not to get excited about having done an IPO, right. It’s sort of a, if you are an entrepreneur, you know, somebody taking your company public is like a big thing.
And honestly, I never aspired to that nor honestly thought it was going to happen. At the time we started. I just assumed, again, this was the second company, the first one that lasted four or five years and got sold. I assumed that was what was going to happen again, right. Just that was the expectation. And so just the, the, the crazy journey all the way through to an IPO and, and being a public company, CEO just never thought it was going to happen.
Didn’t plan for it. Didn’t aspire to it. And it’s been a fascinating journey. Again, I, in some ways I feel like half, like, I don’t know what I’m doing some days. And a lot of times, like, I can’t believe this is what’s happened, but it’s been fun. I, the high points though, probably for me are some of the emotional high points of, of just the team.
You know, clicking and just feeling like, wow, this is going so great. It leads to good business success, but just like just looking around the room sometimes go, I just love the people I’m working with. They’re such great people. I, I, given that I’m working, I can’t imagine working with people. I like any more than these people.
Right. I just felt that along along the journey, actually, with the different teams now over the course of the journey. Um, so I think that’s been a lot of it. I just love the, the people side. Yeah.
Marj: I get emotional about that stuff too. Like people I’ve really known, um, through conversations with Mark and hearing about, you know, how well they have done.
He’s not a lone ranger, this has all been a team effort. And so when people retire or move on or I get just as sad as everybody else, because I feel like, oh no, are they going to be okay without that person? And then somebody else incredible comes along and contributes and it makes his job easier. So.
Yeah. And you know, that’s been fun, but for me, I think this is a little bit of a story, but we went to New York and we got, these were the, were the, these weren’t the private equity people, right?
Mark: No, this was the bankers that ended up helping us. We went through a private equity fund on the way to public. Yeah.
Marj: And, um, and we go there and we go to a house in Manhattan, you know, with a yard and a big tree in the back in Manhattan.
And we’re sitting there and it’s Mark and his, Kevin, his co-founder and you know, I’m just going and they’re talking about the pedigree of everything and getting their kids nannies and getting them into the right preschool. And I’m like, so not my world. Right. And I felt like a country bumpkin, basically sitting there.
And then, and then I’m thinking, wait a minute, wait a minute. You guys are making these people a whole lot of money. So I kind of rethought my thinking about, it dawned on me that we’re getting wined and dined by these people that did everything right by the book, went to the best schools and the, you know, the, the New York mentality right.
Of the area. And here we are this little company from Texas and feeling like the country bumpkin. And then it dawned on me, no, wait a minute. They’re making all this money because of all the work you guys did. And you’re, you’re being smart about this, your space. So I, I, I think that was a high point for me in like confidence.
Kathy: Yeah. Yeah. Affirmation, like it’s really working. Yeah. I know Mark talked about early in the business. He was like, people really think I know what I’m doing.
Mark: Well, you you’re a psychologist or counselor, you know, this there’s this imposter syndrome. That’s a thing.
Right. If they only really do they’d be freaked
Kathy: Yeah. And how, how do you guys celebrate those high times or do you?
Mark: We’re probably be more focused on family. So from the celebration, I mean, there’ve been some big milestones in there.
Marj: The big milestones are neat and yeah. And we’re just amazed by it. Like, but we don’t, we don’t.
How have we celebrated? I don’t know
Mark: the company stuff? Well, like exactly. Um, one of the fun things we talked about relatively recent empty nest like, you know, did all of his travel. Companies, or both been pretty global, like all over the world and teams all over Europe and Asia and such. And, you know, in the last handful of years, since we really became true empty nesters, like Marj got to tag along to places like Australia or Japan or India, you know, and then it’s like, okay, that’s been kind of fun.
Like, it’s not exactly a celebration, but like sometimes we get to tack on a little bit of actual fun rip vacation time to an otherwise pretty intensive business trip. And those are the kind of ways to celebrate in some ways. Cause it’s like, oh, we’re we’re. We’re getting a neat benefit from the company’s success.
That’s that’s a real treat for both of us. Yeah. But yeah, I think at the end of the day with all the crazy success the company has had, I, I think we probably did the more celebrate family thing, like I think Marj will tell you much more about the last one year old birthday party, we just went through than, you know, the IPO.
Kathy: Yeah. The IPO was in 2017?
Mark: Yeah. Coming up on four years, hard to believe. Wow.
Kathy: How has it changed since you went public Mark?
Mark: Um, a lot in some ways in less than others than I thought at one level people see IPO’s in the business world, like, like a finish line that you’ve heard the term an exit and it’s such a bad term.
Right. It’s not an exit cause you don’t get off or get out. You, it’s an important milestone, but the idea is you keep going. Yeah.
Marj: You have a responsibility to stay because. if the CEO leaves right after the IPO, the stock will go down. Yes.
Mark: Yes. So I sorta got the lecture from a couple of my good buddies who are on my board to say, look, you need to know if you go through this gate, you’re going to be barring something really bad happening.
You’re going to be in this chair for a while. So we had to talk about that. And were we okay with that? And I guess if I’m honest, I thought back then, like, yeah, I think I can make it three to five more years. I don’t know. This has been a long run. I’m kind of getting old and tired and now I’m like, gosh, I think I could go a lot longer.
I’m having a blast. It’s really fun. We’re we’re doing well. And. But yeah, it’s, it’s definitely been an endpoint at some point.
Marj: Every athlete becomes an ex athlete. Do you have,
Mark: and we’ve all seen those that stay too long and that’s always a painful story. Try not to be one of those stories.
Marj: One of the things to think about as a family or a couple is if you go public it’s, everything’s public
Marj: your finances, is, you’re public.
So I don’t think about it that much, but every once in a while, I worry about that being known or that being intimidating to somebody or, you know, cause that’s not what it’s about for us. It’s not about the financial gain. And I think if you, if you go into being an entrepreneur, just because you want to make a lot of money, I just don’t know how well you’re going to do.
If that’s your goal. And especially that’s a side benefit in my mind,, to all the being able to grow, help, grow a company.
Kathy: Provide jobs.
Mark: Yeah. The, the, the family, the team you build in your own company and more so with what Mark does, which is, uh, uh, your Mark as a, as a better cause. So to speak, like, you know, providing some great service or product.
I mean, those are the things that are motivating and yeah. If you do well at that, the measuring stick in the business world is you get paid for that. Right. And that, that is fun. Um, but, but I think, yeah, like Marj said, if you, if you go into entrepreneurship either because you want to make a lot of money or you don’t want a boss, I always tell people that those are pretty bad reasons to become an entrepreneur.
Kathy: Yeah. I think some people have the idea that it’s, it’s a get rich quick kind of thing, but it’s, it’s a long road for.
Marj: And it’s a high risk, it’s high risk.
Mark: One of the venture guys I worked with early on, I remember him saying, you know, starting a business, as you said, Kathy, whatever, nine out of 10, 99 out of a hundred, whatever the ugly stats are, you know, most of them fail, right?
So like one of the riskiest things you can do from the moment you start a business, everything else you do is somewhat about mitigating that risk, right? Like how do I hire great people? How do I make sure I have adequate financing? How do I double and triple check that my customer needs are legitimate?
And the product, I’m service I’m delivering is in fact the best one. How do you look ahead to what could happen in the environment around you? I mean, it’s just like, that’s where all the real work is. Like, how do you mitigate the risks? Because inherently, there’s so many things that can go wrong in a business that you can’t predict.
Like it’s all about trying to mitigate whatever risk you can so that you have the highest likelihood of getting success. And I get, I I’m a team bias person, but like the best miss risk mitigator is hiring great people and creating a home where they love to be there. That’s going to help you survive a lot of problems, right?
Kathy: Yeah, absolutely. What are some things that you guys have done through the years to keep your marriage strong and get to 35 years and what seven days?
Mark: Well, it used to be that I would take business trips, regularly to give her a break, but covid kind of screwed that up.
Marj: I think we understand each other’s personalities and we have this area within our sphere of our personalities, where we have conflict. It’s usually the same storyline where I’m overwhelmed with the busy-ness and I need to check out time, gather up more energy because I’m an introvert and he doesn’t need that, but he is, he’s actually understands it.
So that helps. But my tipping point is much lower than his, on how much we’re doing. And that’s where we can have conflict, because I just was like, I’m not happy. I’m not happy going from thing to thing to thing I can’t, you know? And so we will hit those points where it’s been, it’s been, the schedule is mainly where we, where we, and but we know that about each other.
So we have to have that uncomfortable conversation or I have to fight for, I’m not doing anymore right now. I need a break and has his high level of obligations. To people. And my wife now live up to that expectation. and I Burn out basically. Sure.
Kathy: Well, and if you know anything about introverts, you understand that, you know. Did you guys do personality assessments of any kind that helped you illuminate this or,
Mark: yeah, probably all of them in the work context everything. I’ve done, Myers and DISC and Berkman and everything.
Marj: But as an introvert,
I hate taking those tests and I was made to take those tests with every group that he has us join. And so. That’s another thing of contention, so I’m like, yeah, I know. I sound like a grumpy old man
Kathy: Marj, was there one that you liked better than the others? Or did you hate them? All
Mark: probably true. I don’t know. I think after a while, I didn’t want her to have to take them, so I wouldn’t even suggest it anymore or whatever. I feel like
Kathy: I know what I am.
Mark: That’s how I operate.
Marj: I don’t know. I don’t think I can change that part about myself.
Mark: nor should you, but I think it’s deceptive. Like you said, Kathy, I had like, a lot of people have misunderstanding of introversion.
Right? I thought an introvert was like a librarian who couldn’t look up and look people in the eye, not someone who enjoys people. Marj is a great people person, but the, but the definition is how do you get energy, right? How do you recharge batteries? I recharge batteries by being around more people. I get all pumped up when I’m around, when Marj is tired, she needs to get away from people to recharge batteries.
And so, like she said, that’s been our point of negotiation of, and by the way, you know, I guess the real answer, I think you started with the question of, you know, have we made it work? What have we learned to me? It’s, it’s what we’re doing now. It’s communication, right? Like it keeps, keep short accounts is one of the best small pieces of advice,
I think we ever got like, you know, don’t let stuff fester. If you’re struggling, frustrated with something, you got to talk about it got to get out on the table. You’ve got to figure out what’s going on. You know,
Marj: also because I have that personality. I am totally fine if he goes off and does all the stuff he wants to do, and I get a break and as an entrepreneur, so it works in that sense.
Mark: Okay. That’s been a change for us as empty nesters. Like when the kids were little, I felt really bad. Like I missed dinner if I was on the road, of course, but I always, like, I wanted to be home and around to help. And she wanted that, I think back in the day, for sure. When now I’ve learned, it’s actually great with her.
If I have a couple of work dinners where I’m out and she’s not, and that’s actually fine for the work situation and Marj gets a break and it’s good for the marriage. And like, that was a totally new learning for me, like, oh, so it’s better for me to say yes to this dinner than stay home with you and make you crazy by staying home?
Marj: And wanting to talk constantly.
Kathy: Yeah. How great to have that understanding though. Right. And we are evolving. I mean, you all are in a fairly new phase of life as empty-nesters and it does bring some challenges as well as opportunity. Yeah. Is there something, you know now about marriage and especially in this intersection point with entrepreneurship, um, that you would share with couples who are a little farther behind.
Mark: Boy, that’s a, that’s a really big question. Um, I think, you know, at some level we’ve hit some of the points, I guess, if I was going to crystallize it a little, I’d say, look, you know, going into any kind of business role, but particularly entrepreneurship. Although Kathy, I would argue, going to be a pastor isn’t that different, you know what I mean?
Like any kind of thing where, what particularly one spouse and it could be either spouse obviously goes hard after something that’s got a lot of intensity and maybe a lot of risks. So it could be a lot of things that fall into that, right? That, that this, this commitment to saying, we’re going to talk about the issues as we go along and never let this
kill our marriage. Right? It’s almost that simple. Like you have to say, I’m starting with the assumption that if something has to give it’s going to be the business, not the marriage. Right. And, um, you know, an interesting corollary that I think a lot of parents, frankly, unfortunately alot of Christian parents don’t get is you have to be more committed to your marriage than your kids.
And like a lot of young moms particularly don’t get that like, look, look, let me be clear with you. This part of your marriage is going to end faster than you think. Like you’re going to snap your fingers and wake up. And all those kids that you think are the center of your life are gone. So if you want to have a decent life for the two of you, after that, you better, you better stay focused on a healthy relationship between the two of you as you parent.
And I think it’s in that sense, it’s analogous, like, sure, go pursue a business thing, go pursue entrepreneurship, go pursue thing. But, but don’t ever lose sight of the fact that marriage isn’t just going to naturally survive that unless you are intentional and committed to making it a good marriage. And if you chase, cause I would argue.
Men sacrifice their marriages often on the altar of entrepreneurship. Women often do it on kids like they’re so into their kids. That’s when the guy wakes up and goes, you don’t ever pay attention to me anymore. I’m out of here. Right? I mean, those stories are kind of painful too. So I think both hybrids of a couple have to stay committed to this
marriage is important and it matters more than anything else. And so we’re going to spend the energy and time on it. And that sometimes means other things have to pay the price. What would you say? That was a lot of words as usual.
Let me think. Marj will say far more crisply than me.
Marj: Um, as far as
Mark: at the intersection of health, healthy marriage and entrepreneurship,
Kathy: Or just marriage in general,
Marj: we both had the dream of marriage. You know, we want, we wanted that. We wanted the marriage, we wants a family. Um, It wasn’t just, it was like, you know, I don’t know, it was just the total commitment to marriage that was never not, not going to be married option.
So when you have that in your head, but we both came from parents who stayed married. So we didn’t have a script in our head that said, otherwise, you know, the commit, you know, which a lot of people have to battle. And so I don’t know what that’s like. So I wouldn’t want to be critical of somebody who, you know, had that as an op you know, in their head.
And so I think we just, and we enjoy each other and he’s very funny. So that’s fun to be married to. Yeah. Yeah.
Kathy: Well, that’s a pretty fun note to end on. And I just want to thank you guys again so much for sharing your wisdom and 35 years of marriage and all that has gone into the marriage and the business.
And so thank you very much for persisting. I know Mark. We had to communicate a lot and I really, really appreciate it, guys.
Mark: It was fun. I hope it’s helpful. And, and like, say I, I commend people that are trying this journey. It is hard at times, but I think it’s, like you said, Kathy, it doesn’t have to be an either or, right.
You can certainly have some level of business success. I think of if, if those doors are open and possible, but boy don’t, don’t ever don’t ever sacrifice the marriage to get there. That’s for
Kathy: sure. Yeah. I love that. That. All right. Thanks. You guys. We’ll see you soon.