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Family Business

Working with Family, the real pros & cons

Don’t work with friends or family is often advice dished out by many in the business world and for good reason.

That said, plenty of us still dive head first into the balancing act that is work and family life.
Many and end up working in the family business or starting something new with a loved one but for those without the experience of hindsight or experienced hands to guide them, getting things right from the outset is key.
Ian & Joe Syer are two such Entrepreneurs who decided to take things further from a brotherly bond and go into business together running

Established in 2010 the two brothers have disrupted the secondary Art market by combining their different skills in the Art and sales & marketing worlds to create one of the most established and trusted contemporary art marketplaces online. joins buyers and sellers together for pieces from highly prized and acclaimed artists such as Andy Warhol, Banksy, Bob Dylan, Damien Hirst, Harland Miller & many more  .

Both Ian and Joe talk extremely candidly about their working relationship and how to balance the family/work pressures.

Pros of working with family.

Ian – you’d give up anything for that person, it takes away any jealousy financially as you want only the best for them, it may be enhanced because of the age gap being 7 years and there isn’t a sibling rivalry as such

Joe – when you experience success it feels like no other feeling as you’ve someone close to share it with

Both – there is loyalty you’ll never get from an employee

Cons of working with family.

Ian – moody teenager; it sometimes feels like a scene from Kevin & Perry and I’m the nagging mum asking for homework to be done

Joe – you end up working when you are together or discussing work, it can consume your life. It makes stag do’s, christening and other family events challenging for others as you are both often distracted and technology is just increasing this as email / social media etc. become so ingrained

Both – the relationship feels like it has changed over time from brothers to business partners, we are  lucky to have 3 other siblings to fall back on and to keep us in check, especially when things get stressful as it’s easy to just think of each other as business partners first, not brothers.

(Joe: Left & Ian: Right)
Ian & Joe Syer’s top 10 Tips for anyone considering working with family

1 – Family first, business partners second.

Don’t jeopardise your relationship as family, we always fear that falling out at work would also mean falling out with each other personally and what that would mean for the wider family. It’s with this in mind we have stepped down from the edge when we’ve been close. You can end up talking to a family member in the workplace like you would never be able to with any other member of staff, like you are 13 years old or worse so remembering to keep it professional at all times and keeping the fact you are family first at the forefront of your mind is critical.

2 – Defining who does what, and sticking to it.

Be very clear on job roles and try to have some kind of structure in place, allow each other to run a business within a business and be responsible. If business demands change, try and ensure you hire in the right people for different tasks rather than trying to do everything yourselves.

3 – Seek a fresh perspective, regularly.
Make time and find a good intermediary to discuss the business with, they’ll give a balanced perspective and look at other angles you may of missed. This is especially handy for when you are pulling in different directions or are seeking a sanity check on any big decisions.

4 – Accept your differences.

Allow for differences, you may be genetically similar but you’ll probably have a very different skill set at work.

5 – Families that play together, stay together.

We find time to do something together that we enjoy when we should be working away in the office. We try and play golf once a week and seem to get more done in a different environment when you are not in work mode. Ideas flow much better.

6 – Manage expectations from the outset.

We find that clearly setting our goals, defining who will be responsible for what and who will invest in new projects is something to be agreed on straight away. Most people might call this a business plan, but essentially this is serves to ensure as a family unit everything is crystal clear so nobody feels hard done by, or they are carrying someone else’s load on a day to day basis.

7 – Don’t listen to the naysayers.
We often sit up and pay extra attention when we are told something is too hard, too risky or something is already being done. As a family unit we drive success together and you can achieve huge results when as a family unit you all pull in the same direction. That includes people saying not to work with family. Big challenges that might seem daunting or unachievable on your own are easier to tackle with more hands on deck.

8 – Don’t jump into working with family just because you are related.

Treat any business partnership or prospect like you would any other. Just because you are related is no reason to head on into business. Try honestly evaluate your relationship from a outside point of view. Do you argue lots or frequently clash? Do you live under the same roof? Are they your only family member? Do you both already have the same idea and vision of your business idea?

9 – Establish your business goals from the outset.

You need to have the dream agreed from the outset. Are you looking for a lifestyle business that you and your partners can build to a level that allows a comfortable income and balances family life or outside interests? Or are you wanting and willing to sacrifice everything for growth in order to try exit the business at some stage with a huge payout. Either goal is fine as long as what you are working towards is agreed from the start. Nothing dampens cooperative growth more than one party wanting to extract profits when the other wants to grow a business so try think ahead.

10 – Agree an exit strategy.

Should you decide working with family comes at too much of a cost or one of you wants to exit a clear agreement should be in place for how that is managed to avoid conflict later on. Whilst it might be uncomfortable discussing such things at the start of an exciting new business, your family relationships are at stake should these issues not be clear and defined so treating the business like anyone else would with properly sorted shareholder agreements is vital.


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