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Lessons Learned From Working with Friends and Family

One of the difficult things about being an entrepreneur is that sometimes you have to fire a friend or a family member.

One of the difficult things about being an entrepreneur is that sometimes you have to fire a friend or a family member.  I consider business a serious endeavor, It is an investment of time, energy, money, and sacrifice.  

When we started our little company, I thought working with friends would be really cool, we could make money together with people we genuinely liked outside of work and grow the company.  But things took a nasty turn, I failed miserably working with my friend and unfortunately, we had to go our separate ways.  

We have not spoken since.  In hindsight, I realized that there are a few mistakes that I made that had I done differently,  would have saved us a lot of headaches and stress. Below I highlight some of the things I should have considered beforehand:

1. Self Examine

We have known our friends and family for a long time, we know their work habits their strengths and their weaknesses.  If you were considering hiring them, If they were not your friend or family member would you hire them based on what you know about them?  

Are they qualified for the job, can they learn, are they coach-able, how is their attitude? Sometimes we tend to ignore people’s bad habits just because you love them, but if you bring them into your business, will they add to it, or drain your resources with their drama?  If you think they would be a good fit, then, by all means, hire them if not, then don’t,it really is not worth the trouble.

2.  There are rules

Once you hire your family member or friend, there rules to working together.  First there has to be a conversation on roles. There is a hierarchy, if you are hiring your friend or family member, you are the boss, the senior and the more experienced person in the business and therefore you give the orders and your co-workers have to do what you say.

It is difficult for some, to see their friends and family members as co-workers and having seniority over them, and if it so difficult that you cannot stand having your friend tell you what to do, then it is better to work somewhere else because work will be agony for you.

3.  Trust is Earned

In a friendship or family setting, trust is easy, you already have a relationship.  When it comes to a business relationship though trust has has to be earned and trust is based on performance and numbers alone.  

Trust here is not based on emotion but on logic, it is very black and white, did you do or not do the task, did you come in on time or late, did you make those 100 calls or you did not.  It is very matter of factual.  I think this could be difficult for some transitioning from a personal relationship to a business one.  

I work with my husband and we have had our challenges working together, I had a harder time adjusting from our personal life to our work relationship and from work back to personal life.  I carried baggage from home to work and from work to home until I learned to separate the 2.

I had to learn that in business it was simply about completing tasks and the less emotion you had about it the better and the more efficient your work would be and therefore the more trust you earned, and on the personal side could be as emotional as you wanted and it was ok.

4.  Communication is crucial

This one can make or break your business and your relationships.  It is simply the most important and for some (ie me) the most difficult thing to do.  Communication in a business relationship is different from a personal relationship.  In a business relationship, you have to be open, matter of factual and address things upfront and not ignoring any issues that come up.  

Also, one thing that people forget is etiquette in an office atmosphere, just because you are friends and relatives, do not forget manners that make things pleasant like please, thank you and you are welcome.  I think if you are courteous to one another then if you have issues that come up, you can speak about them honestly and accept criticism without resentment.

5  There are consequences to bad behavior

When you work with friends and family, you have to spell out the consequences of bad behavior, IN WRITING, we assume because we have a personal relationship that we will accept each other no matter what.   

That only works on the personal side of things especially with family, we are tied to them no matter what , however on the business side, there is no favoritism or privileges because of the personal relationships, the HR rules apply the same to everyone.

For example,if you are late more than a certain number of times you will lose your position, if you are stealing from the business you will be fired and possibly prosecuted if you cannot perform in a certain role you will be fired etc just like in the real world.

Working with loved ones does not need to be difficult, if everyone knows the rules and works together as a team, for the overall goal, it can be a fulfilling rewarding experience to build something together.  

It is important to note that the personal relationship is more important than the business relationship, however, with that said,  you should not take advantage of your personal relationship to perform with mediocrity. if the business relationship suffers, it will sour everything personal and business, so it is even more important to take work with a friend or family member really seriously otherwise the personal fallout can be quite painful.

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