In my almost 18 years in business, I would say almost two thirds of those years have been running a business with family or friends who I consider family. In my seven years of post secondary education, both in undergrad and graduate school, probably one of the most common themes I hear about in any HR class is to never hire your friends or family. In general I would say this is good advice, because if you want to keep your friends and family, then there are a lot of hazards and complications to working with people where your relationship is more than just professional. As some background to what I am about to share, I have worked with my Father, Sister, Brother, Brother-in-law, and several best friends. In fact, at Five Star Painting I currently work with several of my best friends that I have known since high school. I would not say that I am an expert in this area yet as I don’t think I have mastered the art of working with family and friends, but I have certainly learned a few things along the way.

Here are a few things to take into consideration when working with family and friends:

  1. Keep it Professional. We all love to have fun, and working with friends and family can be a lot of fun, but don’t let that get in the way of running a professional organization. A good  company culture is critical to a successful and fun business so you don’t want to screw this up with too much goofing off.
  2. Manage Expectations. I think one of the greatest contributors to employee withdraw, disengagement and finally loss is in correctly managing expectations. This starts on day one, and when you are working with friends it becomes even more important. Clear communication up front of what is expected, and regular communication on where things are at will keep the focus on results from both sides.
  3. Clear Roles. It is really easy to go outside of roles in business with your friends and cross boundaries. In any business people need to have ownership, accountability and support to really excel. This becomes all the more critical to running a family or friend run business. Gerber, in his book E-Myth Revisted, talks about the current org chart and future org chart. One of the first exercises we went through at Five Star was building the org chart today, and our goal tomorrow complete with roles and responsibilities. This was a lot of fun, and is an ongoing exercise. Making sure there are clear roles, and who fits in those roles can make all the difference in your family/friend run business.
  4. Conflict Resolution. Do you remember way back when you were in the sand box and Billy stole your shovel? Well in today’s business world Mommy isn’t around to step and and help resolve conflict, and I can assure you there will be plenty. Open communication is critical to making sure that when your best friend steals your gum out of your desk, AND on top of that didn’t close that sale this month things don’t get ugly. Regular meetings to review roles, and expectations allow people to know where they are at and head off conflict in many cases before it happens. A great resource here is a book called Crucial Conversations. Fantastic resource on dealing with conflict.
  5. Enjoy each other. Isn’t that what friends and family are all about. We spend time with each other, and likely got in business with each other because we like each other. Make sure you find moments in your business to celebrate your friendship. Semi-annual events are great, but so is Halo on the big screen. Find time to remind yourself why you got in business with each other in the first place.

In writing this blog I have reminded myself that I am far from perfect in accomplishing all the advice I give, but isn’t that what makes business so much fun? I would love to hear your views, both good and bad on this.

  1. Five Star Painting Franchise » Running a Business With Your Friends Said,

    […] the next two steps in how to run a business with your friends by going to Scott Abbott’s website. Outline a clear organization structure that divides responsibilities and authority clearly. Review […]

Add A Comment

Subscribe to D Scott Abbott
Copyright© 2009