Working with family – will it work?

Happy family sitting on sofa using a laptop in living-room

Going into business with family can offer many benefits, whether you’re starting a business from scratch, buying an existing one or securing a franchise. You are loyal to each other, you can share the upfront costs with someone you trust and you have an instant team of people committed to the business.

It can be a powerful combination – but is it right for you? Not every family is suited to joint business ventures and it’s worth putting a lot of thought into it before moving forward because the wrong decision can do more than just crumble a business – it can do irreversible damage to family relationships.

Having observed hundreds of family units take on franchises of different sorts over the years, it’s clear that some are better set up for success than others. If you’re weighing up whether it could be right for you, here’s a few key questions to ask yourself before you go down the path of working with family:

Have you talked about it – a lot?

The best thing you can do before committing to a family business is to talk about the opportunity over and over (and over!) again from all different angles. When you do, observe. What comes out during these conversations and the reactions you see will be a key indicator of the future success of any business arrangement. Are your family members being reasonable and open-minded? Do they listen to different opinions? Are they open to sourcing outside advice? Are they positive and solution-orientated? Watch for any warning signs and negative behaviours.

Do you have strong relationships and strong shared family values?

This will give you a great base to build a business on. If a relationship is already rocky, going into business isn’t going to fix that. In fact, it’s likely to do the opposite. If your family also shares strong values and ethics it will give you the glue that will keep a business on track, even when challenges are faced.

Can you have open and trusting conversations?

This is critical. Communication is so important from the outset and continues to be an essential element for any successful business as it grows. Can you have open conversations with your family members already? If not, going into business together may not be a good idea. Avoiding difficult conversations is a sure-fire way to brew a nasty dispute and see cracks appear in your business.

Do those wanting to be involved have thick skins?

When it comes to family business, it’s not personal. It’s business. Sometimes, tough decisions will have to be made and they won’t always please every individual involved because they will be made for the greater good of the business. Those involved need to be able to put on a professional hat and act and react accordingly.

Do you have a good mix of skill sets?

This can put the business in a great position from the outset. When family members have similar skills sets it can be difficult to divide tasks and put clear boundaries on roles. It’s not essential, but it’s very useful and can save on costs if a diverse range of skills are present in the different family members involved.

Working with family can be a rewarding, positive and safe business experience and it clearly works for many – 95 per cent of our JUMP! Swim School franchises are owned by families, for example. Before you move forward though, do your due diligence, just like you would for any business venture. If you’re still feeling unsure, it can also be worth chatting to another family in a similar business who can share some honest insights about the pros, the cons and their secrets to success.