I am always fascinated with stories of businesses run by siblings. That fascination no doubt comes from my first-hand personal experience of growing up in business alongside my two brothers. I guess you could say I am a bit of an expert on the topic. (Having my own 3 plus decades worth of experience). I recently read an article titled, How to Kill it in Business with your Sibling Without Killing Each Other, and it inspired me to briefly share what my key takeaways are on this topic. Whether you’re in a sibling business yourself, have another type of family connection, or even if you’re friends with your business partner, I think there are insights you can gather from this on how to stay successful in business together.
As my parents worked to build the company they founded in 1974, the business was very much a family affair. My two brothers, Brian and Kevin and myself were constantly at the business helping our parents in any way we could. For my brothers, I believe it most likely started with cleaning up the equipment, while I was probably filing papers or sorting things! As the years passed, each of us was exposed to every facet of the business, and over time we began to display certain skill sets that would shape and form our eventual area of expertise within the company.
This article talked about “Divide and Conquer” and the strengths of the siblings. This is something that I can relate to. We realized early on that in order to be successful, we needed to feel good about what we were doing, and if we each harnessed our skills, the contributions we could make would be that much more effective. Fortunately we each seemed to have our own unique niche that served as a stable foundation covering all the key areas of the business, so we did not have any sort of competition element to contend with. The article explains how this is common with siblings, especially same-sex siblings.
One might wonder how you could spend nearly every day with your siblings over a span of 3-4 decades and not be completely tired of each other. It comes as no surprise that communication has always been a key element to a successful working relationship. As the article shares, there is a unique dynamic that takes place in communication between siblings. This can often be difficult for other team members of the company to understand. We have seen the good, bad and ugly in our own sibling communication styles, but luckily over time as we matured as individuals, we developed a great respect for one another. We have learned how to discuss, disagree, negotiate and resolve numerous topics and situations and still enjoy seeing one another later that evening at a family gathering or find ourselves regularly laughing together.
The last area the article touched on was Trust. This is without a doubt a huge plus when working with your siblings. Already having this foundation of trusting them completely significantly eases daily decision making. The article stated working with people you can be completely honest with is a good foundation on which to build a business. I absolutely agree with this. Honesty and trust have been the catalyst for us to grow together. We can face challenges together and push each other. But we still know that at the end of the day, we are family.
Working with siblings certainly has its pros and cons, but in the end, we each know that this is a business. If our goal is to build something special that great team members want to be a part of, we need to make it work and work well. We will never stop striving to be an example of good leadership.