Working with Family: A Cautionary Tale

Work with family

When I tell most people that I work with my husband I’m typically met with a mix of shock and confusion:

“What do you mean you work with your husband? Like all day? Every day? Full time?”

“Oh, wow. I’d never be able to do that. We’d kill each other.”

“Oh, so he must be your boss. I would never want to work FOR my husband.”

Now, add in that our latest adventure has been moving back to Texas to work with my dad. Disbelief abounds:

“All of you work together? All day? Every day?”

“Oh, wow. I’d never be able to do that. We’d kill each other.”

“OH! So your dad gave y’all jobs.” *insert eye roll*

There are a lot of common misconceptions about working with family. One is that one or all of you do it out of desperation and not actual choice. Another is that one or all of you will end up dead at each other’s hands or at least disinvited to family gatherings at some point in the future. My favorite misconception is the “you must not work that hard/much” innuendos. People seem to believe that purposely subjecting yourself to working with family means you won’t be able to handle it for 45+ hours a week so you’re definitely a part timer.

I know that some of you are curious of what might happen if you quit your 9-5 to tackle a family venture. If you’re thinking about jumping on the family business bandwagon, read on to see what it’s really all about:

The Bad- You’re always ON

Working with family means that no time is a bad time to rehash the day’s events or dive into a staff meeting. 7AM Saturday morning? Sure, why not. Brushing your teeth? I’d love to discuss this project’s ROI. You will be constantly subjected to work ambushes when you least expect it. This can prove to be a problem when one member is DONE for the day. Short of sticking a Post-It on your forehead reading “NO TALKIE”, you will have to get good at nipping unwanted business talk in the bud. Explain to your people that at this moment you aren’t available to discuss anything to do with work, then feel free to completely tune them out. You warned them, after all.

The Bad- You take criticism personally

When a coworker you’ve known for 6 months points out that your Excel spreadsheet has a typo (hello, Excel, where is your spellcheck feature?) you probably thank them for the correction and move forward. When your husband who’s gotten you knocked up twice and forgot to take the trash out this morning tells you that your Excel spreadsheet has a typo, you’re likely to break out in song about all of his shortcomings in the past 24 hours. Don’t even imagine what might happen if the man who potty-trained you personally insults you in such a way! Working with family members is hard and learning to check the personal relationships at the office door is a constant lesson. Your feelings will get hurt. Will you poison their dinner over it? Maybe Probably not. And you will commit to do better the next time one of your coworkers, who you happen to be stuck with forever, points out one of your shortcomings.

The Bad- Everything feels like life and death

When you are part of a family owned business, every failure is magnified. You worry that your entire family’s future is on the line during every sales call and reading of the P&L. Every missed sale is a huge deal and every over expenditure is literally taking money out of your communal pocket.

 

The Good- You’re all incredibly productive

No one can hold you quite as accountable as your family members. You want to work harder to prove to them that you’re equally as invested in this business as they are. You push yourself to excel and grow in areas you might not otherwise because no, we are NOT hiring someone else to do that task. Because you’re always on and having 7AM Saturday staff meetings, you get more out of each other than you would with coworkers you only see bell to bell. The constant collaboration will make you all individually, and your company as a whole, better.

The Good- You don’t take yourselves too seriously

Working with those who have potty trained, seen you push out babies, worshipped with you in church, and seen you fall flat on your face crossing the road promises that you will never take yourself too seriously at work. Your coworkers will feel the constant need to remind you of that time you fell flat on your face while crossing the street (ONE TIME. It happened ONE TIME!) by trying to relate your (un)gracefulness physically to the fact that sometimes you get tongue tied. In turn, you will be able to remind them of that time they were escorted by campus police for riding their riding lawn mower around campus. Needless to say, you will never be at risk of taking yourself or your job too seriously.

The Good- Victory is so, so sweet!

The only thing that beats individual success is group success. The only thing that beats group success the understanding that your entire family is WINNING! And when you’re winning, you’re truly on top of the world. Your “it’s us against the world” mentality is fierce when you get to come to work with your family.

 

All in all, I SO enjoy working with our family. We keep each grounded and working towards a common goal that is so much easier to feel the effects of within 1 family unit. Enter if you dare!