My Sister. My Brother. My Friend. My Business Partner?

If you're like many children whose parents started a business or carried on a family business, you either want to jump in as a successor or you want to move as far away as you can from it.

You think you know your sibling and that s/he knows you. You’ve already shared many common experiences that built trust. You’ve worked through conflict and know that your backgrounds, although different, were similar. You may think you can smoothly enter into a business relationship with your sibling with all the relationship protocols intact. Chances are you have no past experience in a business relationship with your sibling. There will be bumps along the way.

“If you want to do really important things in life and big things in life, you can’t do anything by yourself. And your best teams are your friends and your siblings.”
Deepak Chopra

When you build a business with your sibling, you improve your success by being intentional about business topics. Talk about these five topics in your planning process. Come to agreement and play to both of your strengths. Write down your agreements! Don’t rush or pressure each other – some people just need time and space to process discussions or to reflect.

  • Protect your personal relationship

Determine when you are wearing the “sibling hat” and the “work hat”. Take time to be siblings. No shop talk! If you want to talk about what is going on in the business, set up a meeting time, use an agenda and protect your sibling time. Continuing to have a strong personal relationship is important.

  • Communicate!

The ability to have open, honest, crucial conversations about the business is essential. Express your opinions and feelings openly and listen to your partner’s ideas and expressions. Beware of the power of the Attribution Error! Give each other a break.

  • Use each others’ strengths and weaknesses to your advantage

You know what makes each other tick and how to push each others’ buttons. Find roles and perform functions in the business that let each other shine. Encourage each other.

  • Make important decisions together.

This sounds easier than it is. The first thing you need to decide is what is an important decision! You will likely find that you both define this differently, so getting on the same page early in the relationship can mitigate conflict in the future. Even though one of you is the older sibling, in business, you are equals. Treat each other with respect. Use an objective toolkit to help you objectively assess the options for business decisions, so the sibling with the better debating skills doesn’t overpower or intimidate the other.

  • Be prepared for your relationship to change.

Working day in and day out with anyone is likely to change your relationship. Your personal relationship will change – for the better or for the worse when you go into business together. Pay attention to the changes and steer them in a positive direction. By appreciating each others’ talents, your relationship can grow stronger.

Maybe you’ll realize the success of other sibling businesses such as the Wright brothers, the Disneys or McDonald brothers. If you’re in business with your sibling or anticipating starting a business with your sibling(s), we can help you establish successful practices and routines. With an objective look at the business health and a proven process to bring systems into the business to support team decision making, you’ll leverage your business success and strengthen your personal relationship.