The Intricacies of a Successful Sibling Partnership
What do the Olsen twins, the Williams sisters, the Warner brothers, and the Wright brothers all have in common? They are all siblings able to succeed in creating a business together. In a sibling partnership, developing a solid business relationship can be challenging, given that you've likely spent a significant portion of your lives together before entering this line of work. However, many businesses have benefited from this fact. So how did those businesses succeed? They knew the key to a successful sibling partnership is maintaining harmony inside the company by finding the balance within the family and business relationships.
Many challenges may arise in these partnerships because you share common memories and history. These memories may aid the success of a business or undermine it. For example, even if you have a history of closeness and a strong, reliable link, this might influence partner dynamics both favorably and unfavorably. You may all get along well and work together to achieve great things. However, your link and closeness may be daunting to those who are not family and may hurt your chances of winning respect and trust of the other team members. Additionally, when siblings have close relationships, communication between them might be difficult for other team members to understand. For instance, when siblings criticize or "coach" one another, it might be taken as a sign of unhappiness or dysfunction, but sometimes this is just how siblings speak—clearly and without ambiguity.
On the other hand, if there are weak relationships and memories of hostility, resentment, and undermining, corporate behavior will naturally follow suit. It is not uncommon for siblings to have competition and rivalry, especially if either has a history of being "daddy's little girl," "mommy's little boy," the reckless one, goodie-two-shoes, or whatever position it was. Although each has likely outgrown these adolescent labels, it is still easy to fall into old patterns and some subconscious sibling rivalry.
So how do you work towards finding balance and maintaining harmony in a partnership that benefits the both of you?
It is essential to recognize your purpose for the business partnership. Ask questions such as "What are our values, vision, and ambitions regarding our company's success?" and "What are our roles within the company?" These questions will allow you to find your voice and purpose while laying the groundwork for many other decisions you must make. Having a bigger purpose to unite around makes it possible for many families to focus on how to achieve the goal, versus quibbling over minor issues.
When approaching pressure points of predictable conflict, both parties must recognize their ineffective behavior patterns and commit to finding better ways of interacting. If these patterns are left unresolved, they may result in recurring conflicts. Again, recognizing trigger words is the key here. For example, "always" and "never" are known to trigger irrelevant conflicts that immediately throw you back to accusing and defending old stereotypes.
Next, recognize what each person brings to the table. Identify your strengths and where you can add the most value to the company and stay in your lane. A business is more productive when both parties play to their strengths and set aside their egos for the sake of the business's mission and the strength of their partnership. No one individual can do everything; you went into business together for a reason.
Recognizing your strengths and weaknesses is essential in gaining respect from your siblings and peers. The more you are authentic in who you are and recognize what you do and do not excel in, the more people will separate you from being the brother or sister and lift you up on your own for who you are.
To be respected, one must first respect others. Working in the same business with any family member means respecting other professional opinions and personal experiences outside the workplace. There is a lot of a gray area in mixing family with business. A family member may not agree with an approach on how to raise a family or manage personal expenses, but that doesn't necessarily mean it is wrong – it may just be different. However, these feelings can play into the business's day-to-day operations because if your sibling does not respect what you are doing outside the office, you will be constantly judged when you make decisions or do things on behalf of the organization.
Respect for each other's roles, responsibilities, authority, strengths, and weaknesses, is where setting clear and acceptable boundaries is vital. Working toward recognition and respect protects you and your siblings from damaging judgments and actions that affect the business and family ties.
As much as one would like to keep family dynamics and business decisions separate, it is impossible for us to 100% compartmentalize the two. In all sibling partnerships, all family members in the business juggle two contradictory responsibilities. Give each other the benefit of the doubt and work as hard as possible to be empathetic and compassionate to each other's points of view. Through understanding, one can build the respect and trust to change combative business and family conflicts into articulate discussions. As a final note, The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz can revolutionize family and business relationships, in short they are:
- Be Impeccable With Your Word
- Don’t Take Things Personally
- Don’t Make Assumptions
- Always Do Your Best
Champ and Kendall Rawls know and understand the challenges that impact the success of a family-owned business. Their unique perspective comes not only from their educational background; but, more importantly, from their experience as a second-generation family member employee of The Rawls Group - Business Succession Planners. For more information, visit www.rawlsgroup.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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