‘Oh I’d go mad if I worked with my husband… how do you and Jeremy do it?’

Karen: This is the usual response I get from people when I tell them my husband and I run a business together.  Jeremy and I are childhood sweethearts who met at school and married young. When we first started our lives together, I never entertained the idea that we’d one day work side by side, let alone run a business.

Jeremy: When I started Hireserve, I couldn’t have imagined what it would turn in to today, nor that Karen would play such a key role. For many years I worked on my own with only a handful of customers, but as the business grew, we got to a point where Hireserve needed a Karen. She has this unparalleled drive and determination.

Karen always sees things in a longer term, more strategic way, and her forethought has made so much happen for Hireserve. On the flipside, I’m always focused on what’s happening today or tomorrow. Karen knows me so well; she knows where I will be most effective. It’s good to work with someone in whom you have such trust.

Karen and Jeremy Ovenden, Founders of Hireserve and a husband and wife team
Karen and Jeremy celebrating Hireserve’s 18th birthday

Karen: There’s an incredible honesty between us and this implicit trust. We know how far we can challenge and stretch the other – and there are times when we have to – but I also know Jeremy wouldn’t push me down a route that wasn’t right. We’re the best deputies to one another. We’ve been together so long that we know how the other thinks.

We’ve also got different passions within the business. I’m very passionate about people, our working environments and work-life balance, and the future. For Jeremy, it’s about technology, exemplary work, precision and delivering excellent service.  There’s no power struggle because we’re running the business as a team – and we want both it and our people to flourish.

Jeremy: One of the biggest benefits of working together is that we have a greater understanding of the stresses of our working day and pressures we face. Working and living together means we can talk about our frustrations or fears and really understand and support each other.

Karen and Jeremy Ovenden at the In-house Recruitment Awards
Jeremy and Karen at the In-house Recruitment Awards 2016

Karen: We have developed a ‘We’re not going to talk shop’ policy – but sometimes when we’re out and about we’ll suddenly find we’re doing it again – talking about the business! But it’s not always a bad thing. Being able to talk away from the office gives us the freedom and space to explore new ideas.

We don’t bring personal things to work; just like anybody else, we leave them at the office door and collect them again on our way out. Besides, we’re both so busy and have such a strong belief in the business that to be distracted or unfocused would be counterproductive. There’s no room for it. At work, Jeremy is my hugely-valued colleague, not my husband.

Jeremy: Karen is my exceptionally talented and driven strategic partner. She has a clarity of vision which has helped to grow the business beyond what either of us imagined when it started, and I trust her implicitly.

Karen: I think working together has opened our eyes to what the other one can achieve. It makes me incredibly proud of both of us when I look around our office today.

Jeremy and I really respect one another. That’s how we do it.


As told to Hannah Ovenden, Senior Marketing Executive and another member of the Hireserve (and Ovenden) team.

Find out more

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About the author

Tristan Potter

Tristan has a decade's worth of experience writing content and copy for organisations across Bristol and the Southwest of England. He has written on a diverse range of topics, including technology, philosophy, politics, and recruitment. His writing has appeared in The Drum, HR Grapevine, and The Guardian, among other publications. He joined Hireserve in March 2022.