Being a triplet, with two highly competitive siblings, I've had my fair share of sibling rivalry.
Though sibling rivalry is a term most often associated with children — young brothers and sisters struggling for their parents’ attention, rivalry may continue into adulthood, where it can devastate your family and undermine your business.Â Sometimes you and your siblings will have different business styles and strategies, and other times you may tease each other about events that happened long ago. The key thing to remember is that once you learn to cooperate with your siblings, your business will thrive. Whether you put your brother in charge of your business communications, or your sister in control of secretary work, you will all benefit from cooperation. Here are tried and tested tips to keep from having old rivalries sour your family business.
Lay out the rules
Without rules for how you and your siblings plan to work together, things can quickly slide downhill. Businesses need rules to operate by, and if you don't have them, you may fail. Start out by laying out boundaries and discussing a common vision for your business. Next decide, preferably in writing, what kind of family you are, and what kind of topics should be avoided or considered inappropriate. Once you have all come to a unanimous decision, discuss what jobs will be chosen, what kind of legacy you want your business to leave behind, how compensation will be decided, and whether siblings can report to one another. By setting out rules you have clearly stated your expectations for respect and can prevent many squabbles from arising. “Fixing” a sibling relationship comes down to whether you want to make it work. If you're willing to work hard and not try to take everything for yourself, you can have a profitable relationship, if not a close one.
Spend Time Together Away From Work
Oftentimes siblings will get sick of seeing each other day in and day out in only a business setting. Spending time together away from work deepens a relationship. Many sibling associates convene once a week at a coffee shop and talk about family, sports, politics, and the like. Others share a regular common interest, and proceed to a baseball game or symphony concert together. These interactions take the edge off business differences.
All Major Decisions Should Be Unanimous
Just like when you were children, no siblings will be happy to be left out of an important decision. To avoid hurt feelings and resentment always come to a consensus before making a major move. Most sibling partners have consciously decided to be equal partners. In decision making, they recognize that unless each partner agrees, it will be a problem.
Give Each Other Space, and Clearly Divide the Labor
Sometimes you can be too close to your siblings. Don't hover or tread on toes, and don't start correcting each other's work. In your business, siblings should have a clear division of labor so that you don't feel responsible for the other's work. After clear lines of authority and responsibility are established, conflicts will diminish significantly.
Just as important, don’t crowd each other’s decision making. Siblings should be assigned different functional roles in the company. Be sure the job responsibilities are clearly understood. If these roles are suited to their natural interests, skills and abilities, each person can shine brightly in his or her own area without direct competition from a sibling.
Act Your Age
Now and then siblings are tempted to bring out past events-like old nicknames or embarrassing occurrences- to taunt one another with. Remind yourself to be mature, and set clear rules about such things in your business.Â If siblings can see that a priority of business purpose over personal pride is in their own best interest, then disagreements will be few and far between.
Discuss Problems Honestly, Face-to-Face
Lastly, talk gripes out privately. Let your partner(s) know how an issue makes you feel. Most important, don’t complain to a third party. Many siblings will feel betrayed if they think you've been talking about them behind their backs. Speak positively of each other when talking to your friends and spouses, and don’t use them as outlets for complaints. Husbands and wives, unfortunately, hear gripes the most. After they have heard nothing but negatives, it’s no wonder they begin to judge their spouses’ siblings harshly.
As a successful teenage entrepreneur and founder of The Animal Anthology Project, Christine Catlin has been featured in magazines and newspapers across the nation. Read more about Christine here.