The 8 secrets to growing a successful family business

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The 8 secrets to growing a successful family business, (and keeping a happy home!)

Today, the United Nations commemorates its International Day of Families . Which, including promoting the role of family in education and care-giving, also promotes good practice for a healthy work-family balance.
In the spirit of the day, we’re sharing personal advice from successful family business owners from around the world who’ve managed to strike the right balance.

Here are the top 8 secrets to growing a successful family business, (and keeping a happy home!)

1. Make sure you complement each other
They say opposites attract, and this should also be applied to business partnerships. We talked to husband and wife team Aisha Pandor and Alen Ribic, Co-Founders of the award winning South African Startup ‘SweepSouth’. They attribute their success to a complementary skillset, and a good personality match.

“Make sure you don’t go into business ‘just because’. Do you have a complementary skillset and personality for the type of business you want to go into? We started SweepSouth together because we were jointly passionate about tackling the issue it solves (inefficiency in getting home services, lack of technology used to improve the industry, high unemployment rates). But more importantly, we had a great complimentary set of skills between us, with Alen being able to build and scale our tech, and my understanding of operational and people management.”

Aisha Pandor, Co-Founder & CEO, SweepSouth.com

sweepsouth

Aisha Pandor & Alen Ribic, Co-Founders and husband and wife team behind SweepSouth

2. Agree on what “success” looks like
Sit down and ask yourselves honestly, what do you want to achieve with the business? This is an important question for any entrepreneur, but when you’re starting a business with a family member, this is vital to protecting your personal relationship. If one of you has a dream to be a multi-billionaire global business mogul, and the other is quite happy to grow a sustainable lifestyle business, you may have a mismatched approach to how hard you want to work.

“It's very important to know how the other person will judge progress. It's frustrating to feel like things are going well, only to find out that your business partner and significant other doesn't agree. Defining clear expectations and goals not only helps your business grow, but also helps keep your relationship healthy and happy.”

Jennifer Whittington-Bookhout, Owner & Creative Director, CreativeWhitt.com

3. Allocate specific job roles, and stick to them
Married entrepreneurs, Monique and Derek Alvarez have built their own web design and marketing consultancy together – their secret to success, leave micromanagement at the door!

“My husband and I had a joke that I was the boss of myself and he was the boss of himself. In other words, we figured out what we were each in charge of and we stayed out of the rest. We trust each other and are fully committed to not micromanaging each other.”

Monique Alvarez, Business Consultant

4. Love is a powerful thing – Keep it present in your business!
Especially in a family business, you don’t need to be concerned with appearing ‘professional’, or keeping a ‘professional distance’ – though of course the level of emotional support in the workforce will vary from industry to industry. You are family! Mother-Daughter E-Commerce business Toucan.ro reminds us that though building a family business is stressful, you also love each other, so use that love to create a foundation of support and motivation.

“I think both me and Mum knew from the beginning that we were expecting to spend a lot of money and time building the Toucan brand. And there will come times when you want to give up and say it is too hard. And this is when my Mother comes in and says "Don't lose your passion! you can do it! I trust in you!" This helps a lot.”

Ioana Mirea, Co-Founder, Toucan.ro

5. Find the right workspace – even if it means working in different places
In a family business, it can be all too easy to fall in a rut of working from the family home. Though this may work for some, others need to separate themselves from family distractions and take themselves away. Co-Founders of travel video platform Shootip, Nathalie Matellini and her husband have both found their productivity in different places.

“My husband is happy working from home as it allows him to work at his pace, taking sometimes just 5 mins, other times a 3-hour break and then coming right back the issue he was tackling.  As a mother to a baby, I learnt I could not concentrate with my baby in the house -too distracting and too conflicting to know which ‘hat’ I should have on. I have to completely separate my roles as ‘wife’, ‘mother’ (which I am still learning) and CEO, and for this I physically need to separate them.”

Nathalie Matellini, Co-Founder, Shootip

6. Agree on how much risk you’re willing to take
In a family business, risks include the level of personal investment you’re both willing to take away from your family income, or even savings. With a family-owned business, financial risk isn’t spread, so this can be an intense decision process. Have these discussions at the beginning, and know your limits.

“It came down to a lot of talking and strategizing, plus compromise. We both had to have a sit down and take a hard look at money, where it was going, what was needed and then adjust both of our priorities and plan accordingly.”

Amanda Ponzio-Mouttaki and Youssef Mouttaki, Co-Owners, Marrakech Food Tours & Maroc Mama

7. Remember to stop working
Every business needs time and attention to grow, but the same is true for relationships. Depending on the demands of your business, set clear boundaries for when business is officially ‘off the table’, whether this is an hour per day, or a whole day each week if you can. And don’t forget what you need as an individual to stay motivated.

“We're still finding a way not to get home and immediately open up the laptop!  We're aware of the issue (and that it IS an issue) and try to get out of the house for a few hours when we can. This means we're physically not able to open the laptop and work. We also try to spend concrete time to refocus on other activities, like photography (for Alen) and yoga (for me) that we enjoy, and that give us something else to think about.

Aisha Pandor, Co-Founder & CEO, SweepSouth.com

8. Have a sound contract in place
Unfortunately, not all businesses (or marriages!) work-out. Approach your business relationship with loved ones wearing your professional hat, taking steps to protect your rights as individuals. Consult a lawyer, and make sure that you have all your paperwork in order. You’ll be grateful for it if the worst happens. Husband and wife team, Isabel and Ricardo Dominguez operate a successful dive business together in Indonesia, their warning:

“Be sure your relationship is strong enough to weather one of the biggest storms of your life. Honestly, we’ve been through screaming disputes, but there is also a lot of love and joint determination to make it work. It’s our dream”

Isabel Dominguez, General Manager, Legend Diving Lembongan

In business and in life, with big risk and a lot of hard work comes big rewards. If you’re considering launching a family business, or are already in a business partnership with a loved one, we hope this advice helps you receive those big rewards. Draw inspiration from these success stories, and know that you too can find your balance.

 “Failures are lessons. The people you keep are the seeds to the success you grow. They just grow different plants.”

Maliza Booysen, Founder & Facebook Community Manager, Female Entrepreneurs South Africa

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