People often say you shouldn’t mix business and family. It makes things complicated and it might get messy.

But on the other hand, it might be the best thing you’ll ever do.

Starting a business with a sibling definitely has its perks, as well as its challenges. The key to successfully working together is understanding each other, your boundaries and always having an open line of communication.

Here are my four tips to navigating your business journey with your sibling:

Sibling time is sibling time

This is rule number one.

Sharing business wins and woes will take over your prior sibling relationship. This has it’s ups – you get to spend your day job with someone who probably understands you better than you understand yourself.  But it also means that your relationship can become clouded with the work worries of business partners.

Try to set aside some time to share together where you don’t talk about business and avoid bringing up business at family events. This is easier said than done but it’s worth it for you (and the entire extended family) in the long run.

Business time is business time.

Your insider knowledge means you know all your sibling’s aggravation and tension points. It is normal for siblings to push each other’s buttons on occasion (or for some, on every occasion). But showing respect for each other is crucial to running a smooth operation at work.

Leave family politics (read Mum’s outrageous Christmas plans’) or that story about your sister’s first day of school at the office door. It’s nice to share some personal life at work but limit it to what you would normally share about a close colleague.

Utilise insider knowledge.

Speaking of insider knowledge, make the most of knowing your sibling’s strengths and weaknesses.

You know what makes each other tick and you are in the fortunate position of running your own business. Organise your tasks, roles and work structure to make the best gains out of each of your strengths. Likewise, pick up the windfall and offer encouragement when you know your sibling is out of their comfort zone.

Together you are in the best position to divide and conquer the challenges ahead because you understand how each other’s personalities and expertise can best move the business forward.  

Celebrate the wins.

In any business it is easy to get wrapped up in the losses and the tough times and forget to step back and appreciate the wins. This is exaggerated in a sibling relationship where normal etiquette is thrown out the window.

Take time to celebrate the small wins. This could be those Friday ‘work’ drinks together or a celebratory morning tea to acknowledge the progress in the business or a good piece of work.

Stepping back to look at the progress of the company as a whole is equally important. It is essential to appreciate the work that each of you have put into the growth of a business – even when you come from the same family.


Image: Hemsley and Hemsley