When Business is All in the Family

When you’re looking for the very best business partner, you might consider looking across the dinner table. When that happens—what’s it like to go into business with a family member?

The Good Things About Being In Business With a Relative
If your relationship with your relative is a good one—and why would you even consider going into business together if it weren’t—the very best thing about going into business together is trust. You can trust a family member to follow up, to be personally invested and to brainstorm with in ways that you can trust no one else.

A relative will often share a common vision and commitment with you. Because you know that a relative is going to be around for the long haul, you are less likely to pull punches with each other and can rely on each other for the kind of honesty that your business needs if it is to thrive.

When Business is All in the Family

Be sure to exploit your differences as well. If you are the older partner, use your image to increase the company’s credibility while using the younger partner to appeal to younger markets such as the high tech world.

It’s Not Always Easy
When a business partner doesn’t work out, you can eventually sever the ties and never see that person again. A relative is always going to be in your life, even if you sever the business partnership. Any hard feelings about the way the partnership is dissolved can carry over into your personal life.

Don’t hesitate to get counseling when you need it. In addition to business mentoring, you might consider other professional counseling to help you and your partner deal constructively with the inevitable emotional “baggage” that any two relatives might bring into the partnership. The important thing is not to let differences fester . . . work out a process for airing differences.

Setting Boundaries
A business partnership with a relative—like one with any business partner—works best if your skills are complementary. If your skills match too closely, you may find yourself competing in the same areas. Be very clear about defining areas of responsibility that do not overlap.

When two relatives own a company, it is vital to understand that one is the CEO and one is not—and to stick to those roles in the workplace. Owner issues should wait until board meetings, where they are more appropriately discussed.

When the Tough Times Come
It may be easier to ride out the tough times with a relative because you can ask things of them that you would never ask any other employee. When cash is tight, it is easier to ask a relative to accept reduced payments than it is to ask someone who is not family.

Turning Off After Hours
It’s not easy to turn off the business part of you after hours, especially if family members are part of the business. A certain amount of “shop talk” is probably healthy. After all, you would normally talk with your family about your interests and a new business is certainly a consuming interest. But be sure to have some sort of mechanism that you and your partner agree to that enables you to talk about things besides the business.

The Most Important Tip
If you truly believe that starting a business together can strengthen your relationship with your relative, then go for it. If not, find another partner. Remember that your relatives are not replaceable and be careful not to ruin a family relationship.

The most important thing to remember? Make each other smile at least once each day. Starting a business together is grueling, whether or not you are related. Make it easier on each other.

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