This is the second in a two-part series on siblings in family businesses. Part one covered some successful sibling partnerships, while part two give tips for success for siblings who are in business together.
Even though you may have fought over whose turn it was to use the bathroom and who sat where in the car as children, that doesn’t mean you can’t own and run a successful business with your sibling.
There are unique challenges to it, of course. You may not have chosen your sister as a business partner. You can’t easily quit and go to another business when you’re frustrated. And it can be uncomfortable to attend Sunday supper with the family if you’ve just had a disagreement over an issue at work.
Here are some tips for you and your sibling to work together successfully.
- Have separate roles based on skill, not family hierarchy
Just because he started with the company first doesn’t mean that sibling should become the CEO. He may not be best suited for the job and would rather use his background, education and natural skill with numbers to serve as CFO. Perhaps another sister or brother is best suited to the role, and just needs a bit more training to take over the lead position, while a different sibling might have the perfects skills and personality to run the sales department.
- Understand, trust and respect each other’s contributions
I imagine Walt Disney got frustrated with Roy sometimes when he didn’t immediately jump on his latest vision for their company, being concerned with how they would finance it. And Roy was equally frustrated by Walt’s tendency to continually start new facets of the company without considering available resources.
But they were smart enough to realize they each played a crucial role in the company and that it took both of them to make it successful. They needed, respected and trusted each other.
- Communicate frequently and put it into writing
Any business needs open channels of communication on all levels. With family businesses, making sure decisions are communicated in writing is critical, as there tends to be more verbal communication among family members.
If you’re at a family picnic and make a decision about something crucial to the business, follow it up with an email to ensure you both understood the decision you made.
Hold regular, formal meetings with your siblings to discuss the business. Make sure every partner feels heard during the discussions and that notes are taken during the meeting and distributed afterwards.
- Establish, tweak your mission and goals together
Maybe you and your sibling started the company with one mission, but as you took your goods or products into the marketplace, you saw that a correction to that mission is necessary and your goals may shift. Or you’ve decided you should shut down one subsidiary in favor of focusing on another.
Discuss any changes or direction with your sibling partner. Don’t assume he or she has come to the same conclusion.
- Establish boundaries between work and family
If you and your siblings enjoy socializing outside of the office, that’s great. But if you’re forced to more than you’d like, maybe from pressure from dear old mom and dad, seek to minimize that time together, or just request it be a no-work-talk social event.
It won’t always be easy to be a partner with your sibling. When times are tough, remind yourself that you do love each other and you will always be family. Ultimately, you share the same goals of maintaining family harmony and growing a successful business.