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Power couples: Jim Burba & Bob Hayes

Emily Allen

Jim and Bob are entrepreneurs who produce films and Broadway shows (including Disaster) and produce global conferences for the hotel investment community. 

How did you meet?

Bob Hayes: We met in 1990 at a black tie gala dinner being held for the Orange County (California) LGBT Center at the Disneyland Hotel. Jim was with a group of his friends, as was I, and our paths crossed at an after-party in one of the hotel suites. The room was jammed with people. I noticed Jim up at the bar getting drinks, and he was attractive, so I walked up to him and said, “Have we met before?” Jim looked at me, said “no,” and walked away with drinks in hand. It was a complete rejection.

Jim Burba: I thought it was a silly line he used, and I wasn’t really paying attention to who was saying it. When I got back to my friends I was joking with them about the line Bob used, but they said “Yeah but he’s cute, so you should go talk to him.” And I did.

What was your first date?

BH: Jim actually wanted me to send my friends home in a cab at the end of that night at the gala, but I said “no.” I have integrity, you know. We exchanged phone numbers, and Jim called the next day. We went to a little Italian restaurant in San Clemente a couple nights later.

JB: Bob is great at asking questions. While we were talking at the Disneyland Hotel, he managed to get my whole life story out of me. I didn’t know anything about him. That first date was catch up time for me. When I dropped Bob of at his place at the end of the date I wanted to stay, but Bob sent me home. I think he was playing hard to get.

What are the keys to your success as a couple?

BH: Respect and trust are key to a successful relationship. We wouldn’t be where we are today if we didn’t respect each other’s ideas and ways of thinking and have the trust that we are working together toward common goals that will help us both, as a couple.

JB: Total respect for each other. While we commonly finish each other’s sentences and know intuitively what each other is thinking, we are different people, and it’s important that we also live our own lives. We work and live together, and that makes it very important to not lose our individuality along the way. I love it when something is important to Bob (and not me) and he just goes and does it. I love everything about the man, how he thinks, how he lives his life, and how he views the world. I think he feels the same about me.

How do you balance your careers with your home life?

BH: Our 7/7 rule works well. We don’t talk work before 7am or after 7pm. That’s the rule. It helps us turn our business heads off. Of course Jim tries to break the rule now and then.

JB: Guilty. I get up earlier than Bob most days, so I’m waiting for him with work talk, and sometimes it’s hard to wait until 7am. Also, we try to get away for long weekends when we can. We have a place in Palm Springs where we go to unwind and have a martini or two.

Tell us about upcoming projects that you’re excited about.

BH: We have a film coming out early next year that we’re really excited about. We’re executive producers of Walking Out, starring Matt Bomer, Josh Wiggins, Alex Neustaedter, and Bill Pullman. It’s a father/son story of estrangement and survival that is going to grab you and not let go. We filmed in Montana, and the setting was stunning. The story is profound, the setting fantastically beautiful, and the acting is amazing.

JB: Our book, Smart Partners, comes out in September of this year. We’re really proud of it. We worked on the manuscript for several years, and it explains the various partnership principles we developed over the 26+ years we have been together as a couple and the 16 years together as business partners. It’s a handbook for creating and maintaining successful partnerships in life and business. And we’re particularly proud of our association with the Youth Career Initiative (YCI). It’s an organization that helps disadvantaged kids around the world receive training in the hospitality industry so they can break the cycle of poverty that they find themselves trapped in. Education changes lives for the better, and we’re helping kids make better lives for themselves and their families.

By Evan Hughes

Photos courtesy of Jim Burba and Bob Hayes