People often ask us (after the compulsory: “Wait, are you sisters?!”): What is it like working in a “family business”?
I’ll tell you: FANTASTIC!
I’m not one to be ridiculously optimistic about the success of working with people that you are close with (friends included) – however, when we took on the challenge to run Thorne & InvisiBars together, we outlined a detailed action plan for dealing with the types of disasters which are bound to come up during our careers.
We have euphemistically labelled any disputes or arguments our “Director’s Meetings”, and have come up with effective solutions to effectively dealing with conflict in the work environment.
These strategies may not be ideal for all people running businesses with those they are close with, but they have certainly helped us.
1. Always, always, ALWAYS have a detailed, lengthy, exhaustive discussion early on about any potential conflicts which may arise. These may include issues with boundaries, how often one needs a cup of coffee in a working day, the way we speak to one another, and the discussion of personal issues during work time. Some of the items on our list included: time schedules for calling/communicating (one of us has a child, another very specific routines, and the other doesn’t sleep. Ever.); that we will be allowed to veto any family-related discussions during work-time; our personal attitudes & understandings of work ethic & ethical working practices; who is best suited to deal with specific tasks, etc.
2. Write these items down for future reference. Therefore, if conflict – mild or large – does arise, you are able to use this to maintain a sense of order and peace.
3. It has been important for us to remember that, when it comes to our business, we are colleagues/business partners first and siblings second! This may seem cold & damaging to sibling relationships, but it has enabled us to separate our personal from professional lives. It is natural, of course, that issues that occur professionally will affect us personally, but having such a set boundary during work hours does help to minimise this effect. What has actually occurred is that our sibling relationships have improved! By dealing with each other professionally, we have had the opportunity to see one another from different perspectives & learn new ways of relating to each other.
4. Take advantage of the power that being siblings can give you in the professional world! While we have separated our personal feelings from our professional ones, we will not deny that being three Thorne sisters has added a dynamic to our own working environment and to the industry which has been enormously beneficial. The ease with which we get along, the ability to understand one another’s motivations & needs, and the joyous atmosphere always present in our interactions have given us an unprecedented edge. We use this good energy to engage better with our clients, to constantly promote our dedication to transparency & to gather attention to our great products.
5. Stick Together! This one is essential. It may happen that an outside source – whether intentional or not – may interfere with one’s business practice. Even the smallest interference could cause ripples & then waves in your working relationships. It is essential therefore, that you are open & clear with one another, and that you value your professional relationship above all others in this context. If you let in external interference without prioritising your work relationships, you could do much damage to your business through doubting, a lack of communication, and unnecessary dispute. If your business partners have actually acted wrongly, take this up with them. But do not allow hearsay, outside advice or even rumour interfere with your relationships. Remember: you ARE family, so people you meet assume they can be liberal with the casual dishing out of ‘handy tips’ or gossip. These are valuable, but not if they do damage to or undermine your partners.
It often sounds like a great idea to get into business with a friend or family. And so often, this does not work out to be the case. However, with set boundaries & guidelines, one can ensure success & take advantage of the strength of your relationships to grow your business, please your clients & have fun while doing it!
We wish others success in similar endeavours! I’m off to a Director’s Meeting now.