Starting a business can be an exciting but challenging experience. Going into business with your family members or adding someone from your family to your team after you expand can seem like a good idea on the surface since you may feel like you can trust them more and be more comfortable around them.
However, working with family can open a huge can of worms as things can take a turn for the worst rather quickly. Having worked with family before with a relative’s business and my own business, I can say that I’m heavily against it but don’t think everyone should write off the idea completely.
Here are a few things to consider if you go into business with your family or hire a relative to work with you.
It Can Become Harder to Crack the Whip
If your family member is great at what they do, that will definitely make things in your business run smoother. However, if you need to provide extensive training and guidance or “check in” routinely to make sure they’re not slacking off, the working relationship can become counterproductive.
If you hired an assistant who wasn’t completing some of their tasks or not providing enough attention to detail, you would most likely feel inclined to bring your concerns to their attention.
However, if that assistant was a family member, you may be more reluctant to call them out and request they work more efficiently since you have a personal relationship with them. You may feel that if you’re too mean or direct or just not like the confrontation and that can damage the relationship you have and make things awkward.
Business and Personal Matters May Intersect
Something I hear often is to avoid mixing business with pleasure. I think the same things goes for mixing business with any aspect of your personal life.
When you work with someone you know very well, personal family matters and baggage can become a major threat to your business’ success.
Maybe your sister couldn’t pitch your marketing campaign to clients because she couldn’t find a babysitter for the afternoon or you got into a disagreement with your dad and your brother who works with you thinks you’re in the wrong.
When going into business with family, so many personal factors can interject that you wouldn’t even have to consider if you employed a team of strangers.
If you do find it best to work with family, be sure to set expectations early and commit to keeping business and personal factors completely separate so you can get more done throughout the work day.
You May Give Family Members Too Much Credit
Don’t be surprised when your cousin who spends ever waking hour on Facebook and Instagram isn’t that good at social media marketing. It’s common to hold your family to a higher standard when working on your business.
You may feel they understand your passion better and know that your business is your bread and butter more than anyone. While this may be true, it doesn’t mean your family members are going to be as excited to work on your business as you are or even be as good at some of the tasks you set out for them.
It’s important to keep lines of communication open and hold your family member to the same standard as you would for any other team member. While you wouldn’t expect less from them, try not to overestimate their capabilities without talking to them first and setting expectations for standards that everyone is pleased with.
Partnering Together Can Threaten Your Relationship
Let’s say you’re interested in partnering with a family member for a new business venture as opposed to hiring them to carry out a specific task. While it may seem great to split responsibilities and have an extra person on board to invest, you have to consider how starting a business will affect your personal relationship.
Having a business partner is not always the easier route to take as opposed to being a solopreneur starting a business on your own.
You often have to run every major decision past your partner for approval, determine who owns how much of the business, factor in each person’s role, evaluate one another, and deal with risk and failure.
Before partnering with a family member, decide how you’ll deal with all these aspects especially risk and failure. Will you overreact if your family member makes a mistake or mishandles the money in any way?
Having disagreements with your business partner can very well affect your personal relationship as well. If your partner is a relative, you most likely don’t want to risk your relationship for the sake of a business.
Summary: Set Expectations and Weigh the Pros and Cons
Going into business with family may not always turn out to be a bad decision, but it should be a carefully planned out one so you have a good idea of what you’re getting into.
Be sure to weigh the pros and cons and set expectations and boundaries early on. Prioritize your relationship with your family over business and realize that if things don’t work out they can always support you in other ways as well.