Four Strategies for Successful Sibling Partnerships
What do the Olsen twins, the Williams sisters, the Warner brothers, and the Wright brothers all have in common? They are all siblings able to succeed in creating a business together. Fundamentally, the success of any partnership, let alone a family business partnership, is ongoing work towards maintaining harmony inside the business relationship by finding the balance within the family relationships.
From a family business and sibling partnership perspective, many potential relationship landmines lie around because of your shared common memories and history. These memories have the power to aid the success of a business or undermine it. For example, a strength of the relationship may alienate and intimidate other team members. You may get along well as siblings and work together to achieve great things. However, your link and closeness may be daunting to those not family and may hurt your chances of winning respect and trust of the other team members.
Additionally, when siblings have close relationships, communication between them might be difficult for other team members to understand. For instance, when siblings criticize or “coach” one another, it might be taken as a sign of unhappiness or dysfunction. Still, sometimes this is how siblings speak—clearly and without ambiguity.
On the other hand, if there are weak relationships and memories of hostility and resentment, undermining corporate behavior will naturally follow suit. It is not uncommon for siblings to have competition and rivalry, especially if either has a history of being “daddy’s little girl,” “mommy’s little boy,” the reckless one, goodie-two-shoes, or whatever position it was. Although each has likely outgrown these adolescent labels, it is easy to fall into old patterns and some subconscious sibling rivalry.
The following are four strategies successful sibling partners practice daily:
1. Curious Communication
Ask questions such as “What are our values, vision, and ambitions regarding our company’s success?” and “What are our roles within the company?” These questions, and other questions allowing you to dig deeper into what your sibling is thinking, will allow you both to find your voice and purpose while laying the groundwork for many other decisions you must make. In addition, having a more significant meaning of uniting around makes it possible for many families to focus on achieving the goal versus quibbling over minor issues.
2. Create Ground Rules
Create a “safe environment” that will set you up for success when you know you may be discussing something with a different opinion or where feelings can be triggered. For example, schedule a meeting, so no one is blindsided. Avoid family gatherings, parties, or late-night discussions when both parties may be tired.
Spend time reflecting on pinpointing how you feel and behave when you feel attacked or want to attack. Often, “always” and “never” are telltale signs the discussion has gone off track. When you notice the feelings or behavior pattern, respectfully step away or ask a clarifying question to bring the discussion back to the center.
3. Acknowledge Strengths and Weaknesses
Identify your strengths and where you can add the most value to the company and stay in your lane. A business is more productive when both parties play to their strengths and set aside their egos for the business’s mission and the power of their partnership. No one individual can do everything; you went into business together for a reason.
Valuing each other’s roles, responsibilities, authority, strengths, and weaknesses are where setting clear and acceptable boundaries is vital. Working toward recognition and respect protects you and your siblings from damaging judgments and actions that affect the business and family ties.
To be respected, one must first respect others. Working in the same business with any family member means respecting other professional opinions and personal experiences outside the workplace. There is a lot of gray area in mixing family with business. For example, a family member may not agree with an approach to raising a family or managing personal expenses, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is wrong – it may just be different.
Contact Us, and we can help you with insights and other resources and see if it makes sense to work together. At the very least, in 30 minutes, you may get some ideas you can apply to your business immediately.
Family and Business alignment is hard to find when business issues liven up family dynamics.
However; with proper process, governance policies, and mutual respect built over time, a Family Business can thrive through multiple generations. Click the following links for more drill-down resources on Family Dynamics and Family Governance.