It is not uncommon to hear words of warning against working with family. It might surprise you then, that around 70% of all businesses in Australia are family owned and operated.
What drives people to take the leap into starting their own business and doing so with family? How do they overcome the challenges family relationships present?
Recently, I sat down with two family run businesses to discuss exactly that.
For Pursue Wealth head honchos, Sam Robinson and Josh Wingrove, starting a business together was an easy decision. Taking the leap came down to having “the same work ethic, end goal, morals and attitude”, says Josh. Sam and Josh have been growing Pursue Wealth over the past four years, however, it has not always been straight forward.
“A challenge for us was knowing how to leave work at work and have a family life”, explains Sam.
They managed to create these boundaries by implementing a physical one; finding an office space outside of their home as soon as the budget would allow.
Once they found this balance, however new problems arose. “Another challenge was working out who was in control of what areas of the business”, says Josh. “We went through and broke all areas up, allocating responsibility between the two of us. This ensured no family arguments were had at work.”
For start-up founder Jessie Jarvie, the decision to work with family came about slightly differently.
“I didn’t really make [an active] decision, it happened organically”, says Jessie.
One thing that rings true between both experiences is how important it is to understand your family co-workers on an emotional level. Family business is “hard…at times, because understandably there are more feelings involved”, says Jessie. “The flip side of that is more emotional support from people who love and know you on a deeper level”.
So what about their other family members and friends, did they have an opinion on these new ventures?
Josh explains that people often asked how they would deal with conflict at work and ensuring it did not seep into their personal relationship. “Home is for home, unless we are in our home office, and work is for work”, says Sam.
As a founder of a socially-active business, how does Jessie and her family switch off from running The Baby Bag? “No phones at the dinner table”, says Jessie. This helps to enforce a ‘switch off’ from work. “If we go out to celebrate an occasion…we don’t talk about work, much”.
What drives Sam, Josh and Jessie to build their respective family businesses? They all resoundingly agreed that spending more time with family was the greatest benefit.
In a world where you spend many hours a day with your colleagues – “why not let them be family”, says Jessie.
Working with like-minded, supportive people who genuinely enjoy your company sounds fantastic.
So what’s the catch?
The downside for our founders came mostly from the stressors of running a business, rather than family. “The reduction in your pay and increase in stress levels” is the trade off, says Sam. When asked what she missed most about corporate life; “a salary”, says Jessie.
Of course things can go pear shaped in any business, so both Pursue Wealth and The Baby Bag have their founders protected. “Having an exit strategy was very important to us”, explains Josh. “We wanted to ensure that…if our relationship didn’t work then we had a clear exit strategy”. As a layer in a past life, Jessie says “protect yourself, but keep it uncomplicated”.
If you’re of the entrepreneurial mind and have family members with the same view, what are the top tips from those who have been there?
“Like any business, be sure you can work with your family [before you start]”, says Josh.
“If you are going to work together have all precautions in place”, says Sam.
And finally, “always know that your family are far more important than the business’, says Jessie.