Working With Partners Or Family

In our series on Home Business Couples we have taken an in-depth soul search into what makes or breaks couples who run a business together from home and found some exceptional advice from a range of experts on making or breaking couples in business.

We talked to Genevieve Zawada about how to work with partners or family in a productive and successful way.

Genevieve is an expert in what makes a good, lasting relationship and uses her skills to help couples reconnect after a life changing experience such as serious illness, redundancy, or having a baby.   

Having worked with my husband for over 10 years I feel I am well placed to talk on this topic, sometimes it was a wonderful and very fulfilling experience and at other times, I can honestly say I would have done anything to find another job and walk away from the situation. I have also worked in the past with my father and other family members and friends.  

It is not always as easy or as perfect as some people think it is and with hindsight, and a lot of work, I understand why things went well and not so well and realise now how I could have prevented some of the bad days.   

In our series on Home Business Couples we have taken an in-depth soul search into what makes or breaks couples who run a business together from home
Some people I have met that tried and failed to work with a loved one, should never even have entered into that working relationship in the first place. 

A lot of it boils down to individual personalities, I know that there are some of my family members, that no matter how much I love them, we would end up not speaking if we worked together and I couldn’t think of anything worse than having to work with some of my friends and relatives.  


Honesty Is The Best Couples Medicine

You have to be really honest and know yourself and the other people well before you embark on this adventure, you also need to know and fully understand the way they work professionally as some people can be very different in a work life than they are personally.

A number of people take on an “alter ego” when at work and this is not apparent in a friendship or relationship.  Before you decide to start up a business with a partner, friend or family member, talk to other people that work or have worked with the person you are thinking of embarking on a new business relationship with and fully understand what you are both letting yourself into.  

Some people I know have even undergone profile testing to ensure they are compatible in a business sense.  Having taken this type of testing myself, and been pleasantly surprised at the outcome, it led me on to a new path in my professional life.


The Get Out Bump

Be sure that working together will bring you both the fulfilment you are expecting and have a clear “get out” clause from the beginning, so if either party wants to exit, they can do so without it affecting the personal relationship.  Have everything written down and have an agreement in place.  As the worst thing that could happen is the personal relationship as well as the business relationship could break down. Clearly nothing is worth this type of emotional trauma.

So why is it that some people can do it so well and others fall at the first hurdle?  There are lots of people who make a genuine success of working with other family members and speaking to those people it all works very well if you run it as a proper working relationship.  

Some of these tips I picked up from these people were simple, but essential for the harmonious balance in a working and personal relationship.  


Foundation Building

Setting the foundations on solid ground is the first rule of working successfully together, therefore writing and agreeing job descriptions, with clearly defined roles ensuring you are all working on your strengths and not putting someone under undue pressure is key to separating and defining your responsibilities.   

Respecting each other’s wishes and supporting each other whole heartedly, should go without saying but is more difficult to do at times, when the other person feels that their idea is better.


Directional Clear Planning

Having clear plans for the direction you want to take the business and both agreeing to this plan.  Communication is key and what is even more important is not bringing ‘home’ work issues. 

This, my husband and I, found particularly difficult, especially in this 24/7 world we live in.  There were times, that if we had  not seen each other during the day due to meetings, taking us in different directions, that we would dissect each other’s day over the dinner table.  This made it really hard to switch off and establish strong boundaries between work and family time.  


My advice to anyone would be to keep business to business hours, as very quickly home becomes a continuation of work and that is a really hard pattern to break.   


Resource Driving Wedges

When employing other people, you both need to be happy with the people you are taking on.  If either of you is in any doubt, don’t do it!  You will always find someone else who is as capable, and no one is indispensible.   Don’t feel you are beholden to other people as they can easily try to drive a wedge between you and I know a number of people that have been in this position, and it is easier not to put yourself in that position than try to sort it out.   


Unemotional Business Decisions

Taking business decisions together is always a difficult one, especially if one party is keener than the other. Put together a business plan or add it in to your existing one, to see how it would work. 

Look at it with a “business head on”, keep emotions out of the work decisions, this is important so you can clearly see and define the areas of the business that will be affected and ensure you both know what the implications are so if things don’t go according to plan, no blame is apportioned to the person who made the suggestion in the first place.


Don’t Play The Blame Game

Blame, is one of the reasons both personal relationships and business partnerships fall apart.  It is all too easy to blame someone when things go wrong.  Things will never go swimmingly all of the time, in all areas of life there will be challenging times, and anyone not expecting this should not go into business with other family members.

You need to be extra strong when working with family and far more tolerant, patient and communicative.  It is harder to work with someone you know so well and there is a tendency to apportion blame on those closer to you.  It is human nature and you need to be aware of this before you enter into this type of working relationship.  


Praise The … Partner

Just because you are working with family members, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give praise to one another.  It is really important that if someone has done something well that they are given the appropriate praise and encouragement.  

There is one question that you should keep in mind “would I treat an employee like this?”  If the answer is “yes” then you know you are doing the right thing, if the answer is “no” then change your approach.  Whether you want to communicate on a positive or negative issue, remember that everyone has feelings and sometimes, we all take this for granted when working with a loved one, but it is really important not to take advantage of this.


After Work Activities

Find extra activities that you can do independently and as a couple to ensure you have other things to talk about other than work.  Sometimes, work can be so all consuming that you have no time for anything else.  This is probably the most important thing to help you remain in a “health” working and personal relationship with someone. 

Give each other time and space to do other activities and especially if you are working together and living together it is even more important to find something you can do together too. 

Take up a hobby together or have regular weekly date nights. Don’t forget that a work/life balance is so important for everyone and even more important when you are working with a partner or family member.  


Most Important

Laugh together, have fun together and remember why you are together and keep a check on your hopes and dreams.

Don’t lose sight of why you are working together and what has brought you together in the first place.

Genevieve set up Love Match Weekends with ‘couples weekends’ specifically tailored to help couples reconnect and ignite the spark and spontaneity in their relationship.

You may want to read some books on relationship advice.


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