Shivani Ranchod | February 2018
You could see the alarm in the face of our lawyer when she realised that not only have we co-founded Percept, but we’re also married to each other – so many additional scenarios for her to think about in designing our contracts!
Dave and I don’t feel alarmed at all, maybe because we have a long history of working together – we met when we both worked as academics at UCT. And we’ve both been the other’s boss at various points in time (with all the requisite disclosures and stepping aside for performance management conversations). We love working together – perhaps because our attraction to each other has a strong intellectual foundation (sapiosexuals and all that), perhaps because in a busy life it allows us more time together than would otherwise be possible. Personal dynamics aside, there isn’t anyone else I would rather run a company with.
But merging our work and personal lives is not without its challenges. Just this morning, we were both rudely awakened by our puppy wanting to go out at 4:30am, at which point we discovered our almost-nine-year-old adding glitter to his home-made slime. Going back to sleep wasn’t really an option and somewhere in the pre-dawn we started to talk about the nuances of restraint of trade clauses. Not the best example of a work-life boundary.
To help strengthen the boundary we have physically separated our work and home spaces. My parents also work together, and this was one of the strategies they recommended. It helps, but it doesn’t completely prevent work creeping into our conversations. We try to demarcate time when we don’t “talk shop” – we both recognise that it is critically important that we don’t allow work to dominate the way in which we relate to each other.
Given that we co-founded Percept, the other issue we’ve spent time thinking about is how we best jointly run the company. We wanted to avoid creating a bicephalic beast. Joint CEOs seem quite popular in South Africa at the moment: Standard Bank and Investec both come to mind, and MMI have just appointed joint Deputy CEOs. There are inevitable questions though: Do both minds have to apply themselves to all issues? Who takes ultimate responsibility? Do staff and clients know who to turn to? Does it lend itself to agility?
The tactic we’ve employed is what we call the Bodega management approach. The Bodega approach essentially means that you demarcate clear domains for each person, that they take full accountability for their domains, and the other person trusts them to do so. It doesn’t mean that you have to split the domains along traditional lines: our respective titles of CEO and CFO are as indicative of our Bodegas as our titles of husband and wife. Dave plays to his strengths of rigour and diligence – all things financial, technological and contractual lie in his Bodega. In mine lie culture, people and our identity. We use each other extensively as wise counsel, make our decisions about which projects and clients to pursue jointly and work hard (with facilitation) to make sure we’re aligned on how we articulate our vision for the firm.
So instead of creating a beast with two heads we’ve attempted to create a beast with head and heart: the two have to be connected and work in tandem, but their core functions are clearly delineated.
This is the first in a series of blog posts about the process of creating Percept. Expect more on work-life boundaries, ways of relating and communicating across multiple locations and a matrix organisational structure. Given my obsession with all things healthcare, these posts are a departure from my usual writing, but reflect much of what consumes me at the moment.
 Making slime is a YouTube-driven craze. Recipes make use of things like shampoo, shaving cream, contact lens solution and baby oil.
 Watch this space for our bestselling book “The 5 golden rules of Bodega management”, the TED talk and our accompanying merch.
 I first heard this term in a YouTube video called “Spiritual Partnership” by Elena Brower