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I am a confident chap, especially when it comes to offering business advice. I have enough experience of success, failure and the endless permutations in between to be confident that I can offer useful pointers to any young company. Where my confidence can falter, though, is when applying it to the melting pot of familiarity, unconditional love and simmering resentment that is the family. The family business is a perfectly double-edged sword.
Let us start with some positives. In many cultures - including the UK for much of its history - the family business is a natural career progression. Sons learn their fathers' trades, serving their apprenticeships until it is time for them to take the reins and repeat the process. Family businesses are more ingrained in commerce than the odd blacksmith or butcher, too. Mars, Ford and Wal-Mart are all international companies that began as, and largely remain, family businesses.
Entering into business with family members can certainly be challenging but as these examples demonstrate, if you can harness the relationship correctly it can be hugely rewarding.
There are less harmonious examples, though. Sports brands Adidas and Puma are famously the product of sibling rivalry, companies founded by two very competitive brothers.
Identifying the positives and negatives involved is a sticky business as they are very often two sides of the same coin. On one hand, a family member is someone you know personally. You can trust and rely on them. You have a ready-made, strong and loyal relationship based on shared experiences. The blood tie can give you an unshakeably reliable ally in the face of all the ups and downs of business life.
Equally, you do not know them in a professional capacity and are therefore risking your personal relationship by bringing it into the business arena. Will family loyalty get in the way of finding the best person for the job? Will familiarity bring up old feuds? Will you take advantage of each other or impose impossible workloads simply because you can? The fact that you know each other inside out alone can turn niggles into nightmares and allow resentments to fester.
The type of relationship also bears little scrutiny. Siblings ought to offer a very different dynamic to father/son. There is generally no hierarchy with siblings which means there is theoretically less of a power struggle. Ideas, responsibilities and workloads can be shared more or less evenly. One expects the father and son construction, on the other hand, to be more hierarchical, and therefore more confrontational. Yet that very hierarchy can enforce order and a focus on process, whilst siblings can often fritter the business away on petty challenges which the vacuum of authority allows to develop.
As I said at the start, there is no simple answer here. I can predict the success of a family business no more easily than betting red or black on a roulette wheel. However, the relationship with the most intricate dynamic, and the one in which I have some fairly concrete advice, is that of Husband/Wife (or indeed Partners, Boy/Girlfriends, Civil Partnerships etc.)
I am afraid to say, my top tip for relationships in the workplace is simple: one of you should leave.
That will be no comfort to spouses who have set up a business together, so here are some more thoughts. In order to work successfully together professionally, the relationship needs to be "business first, relationship second". Unfortunately, this goes against everything Mills and Boon ever committed to rose-scented paper.
Even if you achieve it, you then have the problem of 'closing the office door' each night. Most couples fail to manage it, resulting in a situation where you argue about home at work and moan about work at home. Unfortunately, the sad result of this blurring of the lines is often separation or divorce; which brings up a whole new set of difficulties even harder to leave at the office door. Find a third party (within the company or an outsider) who can serve as an impartial sounding board and mediator - and find them fast.
At the same time, I know a number of great businesses run by couples who have successfully split the two relationships and, in doing so, created an even stronger one. What these couples all have in common is the ability to strike the right balance, and this is the key. You will need to balance your respective contributions with complementary skill-sets, your personal and professional relationships, your responsibilities and your time. You will need to respect each other's contributions, and admire one another's different styles, attitudes and approaches.
Understanding each other's strengths and weaknesses and balancing personal and professional with mutuality and respect is the crucial foundation of any family business. It can be a richly rewarding experience, but be under no illusions: the road is fraught.