How Does Working With Family Work?

The Debate

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This is a topic I often have with business owners. It can be a controversial topic because it can feel personal. Some will say it can work and others will say it can’t. I say it depends.  It depends on your mindset going into the working relationship.  

  • Looking for cheap help it won’t work.                               
  • Make your decision from fear or the overwhelm of business ownership it won’t work.
  • Take the approach that they should or they owe you in some way, it won’t work.

As a result you or your family member will end up with resentment, which could jeopardize your relationship outside of work. Business success shouldn’t come at the expense of relationships.

If you come from a mindset of you get to work with them instead of you have-to work with them, it makes a difference. Your company culture should work for both family and non-family team members alike.

Three Must-Dos

  • Share your WHY. Money is not a why. Money is the result of working.  What is the real reason you started your business? You could have continued working elsewhere or changed your career. Why did you start a business? We all have a story. Tell yours. Your core values will show up.
  • Only hire family if they have the attitude and skills for the job or position. Sales, Marketing, People, Operations, Finances. If they couldn’t get hired by another company for the same job, why would you hire them or anyone who isn’t a good fit. Formalize their hire the same as other team members with documentation, job descriptions and promotions based on merit.
  • Business ownership is your dream. It may not be theirs. They will learn and developing skills, but they may not be there forever. Don’t pressure them or make them feel obligated. Everyone needs to find their own path.

I have first had experience with this. Tony and I have been working together since 1999. He had the technical experience and I had banking experience. When we started working together, we saw qualities in each other that we hadn’t seen before. We also saw weaknesses. It was easy to be supportive of the other when one of us was stepping out of our comfort zone or building a new skill. When we were both challenged with growth at the same time, it was hard to see the other person’s struggle and difficult to be supportive. With three young children, those were hard times. Once we realized what was happening, we could work through it to be supportive of each other as we built our skill sets and grew personally and professionally.  This made our trust in each other, relationship and business stronger.

Our oldest daughter joined us full time in 2015 and is still working with us. All our children have worked in the business part time when they were young. At work we are Maryann and Tony. Outside of work we are mom and dad. It may feel strange at first, but it works. Some vendors, suppliers or newer team members had no idea our daughter was working with us and were surprised when they found out.

Mindset: Dont Take Family for Granted

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As family, we tend to know a lot about each other so in a work enviornment it’s easy to make assumptions. It’s healthier for the business to treat family with the same respect you would give any team member. Hold them accountable as any team member but don’t be harder on family members which can be easy to do.

  • Appreciate the value, attitude and skills they bring to the business
  • Be open to feedback and new ideas
  • Give them the opportunity to grow and develop skills.

For these reasons, I never pressured my children to work at our transmission shop. My daughter and I were interviewed a couple of years ago. The topic was family businesses. She shared an insight that I heard for the first time. It was interesting that she saw us as more than mom and dad. Seeing what we created and the work that went into it. She wanted to bring value and saw an opportunity to mix old school ways with new ideas and felt that she was contributing, learning and growing and saw us doing the same.

What I know is change is inevitable. Embrace change and grow. Resist it and growth will pass you by. Every team member brings value to your business. Do you see the value in every team member and appreciate them? Your mindset is a choice on how you show up each day.

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