Family businesses can be serious entities. Some of the world’s biggest and best companies are family owned, including Walmart, Volkswagen and Berkshire Hathaway. Business owners looking to build a team they trust don’t have to look far, and enlisting the help of partners, parents, children and siblings can make all the difference. In theory it’s great. In practice it is a different story. Could you work with your family?
Ali Assadkhan knows how to work successfully with siblings. As founder and one of the owners of Vitasave, started in 2013 and expects to earn $50 million in revenue this year, Assadkhan teams up with his two brothers to run the company. Not only is their business thriving, but Assadkhan and his team have successfully transitioned it from a brick and mortar store to just e-commerce. Today, the company offers more than 300 brands and 8,000 natural health products.
From nearly a decade of experience working with his brothers, here are Assadkhan’s nine essential tips for running a business with your siblings.
Communicate clearly and regularly
Communication is key to any successful relationship, but it’s even more important between siblings who run a business together. “You may know your siblings well as people, but you have to make sure that no one keeps guessing what is going on in your company,” Assadkhan said. “Running a business together can bring out new versions of one’s character that may surprise you, even if you all grew up together.”
Divide responsibilities according to strengths
“There may be a natural leader among siblings,” Assadkhan said, “but everyone needs specific responsibilities to be owner.” As in any team, everyone will have different strengths and the workload should be distributed among the partners. Building the team, the brothers “implemented a simple strategy from the E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. We all had one department: marketing, accounting and operations.” This allowed them to each focus on one core area and communicate their progress without duplication of effort. Divide and conquer and watch your efforts multiply.
Separating personal and professional lives can be tricky between siblings, but it is the key to harmonious relationships, both inside and outside the company. “We set clear boundaries and draw the line so as not to confuse our work and personal relationships,” Assadkhan said. For example, “Whether we’re discussing growth plans, assessing performance, or tackling an internal problem, we stay professional and stay on topic. Our personal life is at the door of every meeting we have related to the company.”
Align your goals
“My siblings and I have our individual ideas and unique leadership skills, and without a good strategy, our ideas could be the very things that break us,” Assadkhan said. To make sure that his and his brothers’ plans are all aligned, they set out a clear path together, agree to it and refer to it in everything they do. “Building a business or family business is something many people don’t think possible, but with goals clearly aligned, including when to expand the product offering and how to improve the website, we’ve moved Vitasave to a respectable able to lift the level. .”
Stimulate a healthy debate
When you work with siblings, make the most of having more of you and don’t make decisions alone. “Growing up, you may have experienced the eldest deciding for everyone or a sibling taking the reins for everyone, but this is no longer just about who has the television remote.” Assadkhan wants you to tell your siblings everything that goes on in your head about your business so that you can make decisions as partners. “There have been moments in the boardroom where we debate and challenge each other for hours, always to the benefit of the company. So far, that strategy has worked. And there are never hard feelings!”
Be each other’s source of motivation
“We are each other’s greatest fuel and we are constantly pushing each other to learn, grow and remain hungry for knowledge and connections,” Assadkhan says. That was as true in their childhood as it is now. “If one of us wants to pursue an idea to grow the business, the others support them and are there for them.” For example, Assadkhan believes that personal breakthroughs lead to better business and “in 2016 I wanted to attend a Tony Robbins seminar. I shared the seminar with my brothers and we were all there together. The seminar changed our personal lives forever, impacting many aspects of our business.”
Don’t dwell on failures
If you know your siblings well, you know what they are capable of, both resounding success and colossal mistakes. “Worrying about the mistakes your siblings might make will only stunt your growth,” Assadkhan said. “Focus on your vision instead.” At Vitasave, when the team is focused on its vision, failures and mistakes become stepping stones and opportunities for development rather than setbacks.
Get outside help
Working with siblings means it’s easy to work in an echo chamber where you believe you have all the answers between you. Assadkhan knows this is not the case. “We know there are resources and expertise we need beyond what our family can do, so we don’t hesitate to ask for help from others.” Admitting that you don’t know the answer within your family is a strength, and “getting help from others is not a weakness, but it makes for long-term success.”
Like many family businesses, Assadkhan and brothers want their future children to build on the legacy they started. “Imagine your company three, five to ten decades down the road and think about who might be part of it in the future.” It is never too early to start succession planning and Assadkhan recommends identifying critical positions and developing action plans for them. “If younger people in your family want to get involved in the future, you can prepare them early on to make this a success.”
Working with your family can be great if you do it right. Your business will soar to new heights and you’ll wonder why you didn’t consider it sooner. However, if done poorly, it is a nightmare that affects multiple areas of your life. By communicating well, supporting each other, actively looking for experiences and help from elsewhere and setting boundaries, it may work for you.