As someone who has spent the last 18 months building a business with two of my closest friends and my wife, I speak from experience when I say that there are as many challenges as benefits with choosing this route. You more than likely spend more time with your spouse than anyone else in the world, which means they are exposed to your business as much as you are, a reality that will quickly wear on any relationship. Because every business and every entrepreneur are different, I won't project my experiences and try to say that our situation will work or won't work for your business, but there are some lessons that I think can be applied across the board in these situations.
A mistake I made early on when I was first developing the idea for the business was to try and be CEO before I had ever accomplished anything. When I presented the idea to my friends, it felt forced and scripted, as if I was giving some type of graded project in college to a class. I knew that my friends could see right through that, because I wasn't being true to myself and how I normally act around them.
If you choose to move into a leadership role within your business, there will be a time when you need to show authority or make a decision for the good of the entire business, but don't try and pretend to be something that you're not early on, because the people who know you the best will more than likely call you out. More importantly, they may not take you seriously, which can influence their decision to come aboard with the business, and may even damage their opinion of you. If they mean a lot to you on a personal level, show them that respect and be authentic in your approach. Speak how you normally speak, don't make a big presentation of your pitch, and make sure to ask their opinion, not tell them "You should do this because of..." Little details will go a long way towards building that business relationship.
Learn to Balance Personal & Business Time:
This is something that I still struggle with even after nearly two years of working on the business. As we continue to develop our website, products, and advertising strategy, I'm constantly working on new ideas, and I have the desire to share those ideas with my wife and friends who are co-founders. I'm excited, and I want to share that excitement with them so that they can be excited, too!
But there needs to be time spent with your spouse and your friends when the "Entrepreneur Switch" is turned off. If you must, set a time in the day when the phone/laptop is put down for the night and it's family time/quiet time. Set a rule that after 6 pm, no more working on the business. Or you can schedule date nights with the spouse, making sure to let your other co-founders know not to call you or text you that night about the business (or at all) because you'll be with the wife/husband. If you want to set a guy's night or a girl's night to spend with your friends while stepping away from the business, do it.
Sometimes a break from building a business together can be a breath of fresh air for your relationships. As excited as I get about new things related to our business, I can tell when I'm starting to wear on my wife and friends. So make the time to shut off the "Entrepreneur Switch" and spend quality time with those around you.
It seems counterproductive to follow my previous tip of "stop talking about the business" with this suggestion on communication, but there is an important time to turn it off and an important time to keep the communication channels open. In regards to times when it's appropriate, I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping everyone that is involved with your business at the highest level informed on what is happening. With our business, we have four people (myself, two friends, and my wife), and we each have our own unique roles within the business. Because of this, information can sometimes get lost in the hustle. I share an idea with one person but fail to share it across the board. Or we have a meeting and one person isn't able to make it, so they have to be updated later. This can create confusion and a sense of being left out.
I'm constantly sending texts and emails to all of the co-founders of our business, just because I think it's important to keep them up to date on the projects I'm conducting. When I'm communicating with a vendor or creating new content for the website, those are decisions that sometimes require all of our input. Other times, when I feel the decision isn't as critical, I'll make the decision and then inform them of it as soon as possible.
Proper communication is critical, but it is also tricky. The best advice that I can give is to put yourself in the shoes of the other person you're working with. If you were them, would you want to know about the decision that is being made before it is finalized? If so, give them a quick call or try and meet up for 20-30 minutes to discuss it. Communicating well will create a sense of fusion within your business, and it will also build trust.
Give Honest Criticism:
If you're starting a business with people close to you, it's likely that you can be 100% honest with that person when the time is right. If that is the case, use that availability to make suggestions or improvements for the business when they are necessary. If one of your co-founders creates a piece of content or pitches a product that you don't like, be honest with them. Tell them why you don't think that particular idea will work, and then (this is the important part) make a suggestion on how it can be improved.
Too many people make the same two mistakes: First, they are afraid to criticize someone close to them because they don't want to hurt their friend's/spouse's pride. But guess what? If you go along with your friend and his/her garbage idea, that hurts your business. And if your business fails, it's going to put a strain on your relationship with your friend/spouse. Second, when people do have the nerve to tell their friend/spouse that their idea is crap, they don't work to improve upon it. Anybody can shoot down an idea, but a true leader has the ability to step back, work with that person to mold that idea into something productive, and then implement it into the business.
Launching a business will be one of the hardest things that you will ever do, and having a close-knit group of people that you can lean on for support will help you in numerous ways along your journey. If you choose to bring those people on board to help you run your business, remember that they were there before the business idea ever came to you, and they should remain ahead of the business no matter what. Learn to balance your personal life and your business life, and always remember that any success that you have as an entrepreneur is secondary to the relationships that you build.
Do you have any stories regarding businesses and family members? Share them in the comments!
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