The thought of running a business with a loved one or relative can be a double-edged sword: you’re either in love with the idea, or you can’t imagine anything worse. Most of us dream of going into business with a close partner – the love of together pursuing a shared dream is hard to resist – but there is always the fear of what if it doesn’t work out? What if the stress makes us fight? What if money troubles drive us apart?
In honour of International Day of Families, Sage spoke to several growing and thriving family businesses to discover the secrets to their success.
PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS
Any business is a lot of work, and that’s no different in any family-owned company. You’ll have a lot of jobs to cover between just the two or few of you, at least at the beginning. As advised by Monique Alvarez, who runs her online consultancy with her husband, it is essential to sit down and discuss each of your strengths and weaknesses, allocate roles for each other in the business, and then stick to them. The more you trust one another, and the less you micro-manage, the more you’ll enjoy working with one another.
Of course, this may extend to not just how you work, but where you work. It can be a particularly daunting decision to tell a relative, particularly a partner or spouse, that you can’t concentrate in the same space as them. This is perfectly normal, and the best way to address it is to be honest and understanding of one another.
SET CLEAR LIMITS
Relationships and businesses share at least two things in common: they can both be hugely rewarding, and they can both be enormously stressful. With the line between work and personal life blurred, it is important to set limits so each partner knows where to draw the line.
Regularly hold meetings to strategize and agree on how much of yourselves to invest. This includes everything from money to be allocated to the business or to the family, as well as what your work hours are going to be. Resist that temptation to check the e-mails when you’re sharing quality time with one another.
It’s also a good idea to put in place some legal protection. Just as having an annulment or a divorce agreement doesn’t mean a marriage will end, having a contract in place to protect personal and business assets is good sense and will help protect your relationship in the event the business fails to thrive.
KEEP YOUR GOALS IN SIGHT
Importantly, agree from the start why you are pursuing this dream together, and understand each other’s motivations. While you don’t necessarily have to agree on what progress looks like, it is important to understand what motivates your partner so you can gauge their mood.
Finally, always remember why you wanted to partner your family member in the first place, and why you love them. It is that love that you should keep at the forefront of your mind. It will remind you of why you went into business in the first place, the priority they hold in your life, and the importance of sharing success in the endeavours of both your business and relationship.