Successful Startups Share Tips on How to Work With Relatives: Part 1

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Working with relatives in managing a business can be a challenge. However, there are many cases, in which startups and small businesses have no choice but to hire family members. The reason may vary from trust factor to limited financial resource. Sure, working with a sister or a brother benefits you in some ways, such as easiness in communication. However, it may put you in difficult position when it comes to strategic decision making. A relative has more chances to intervene with your decision.

You certainly often hear that blood is thicker than water. This shows how blood relationship is usually more powerful than professional bond. An associate professor of psychology from Ariel University, Avidan Milevsky, said that sibling dynamics in a family business can make or even break it. When the siblings have a close bond and leadership functions properly, the business will survive well. However, matters that involve money often leads to destructive dynamics in a family business.

How to Work With Relatives: Tips from Successful Family Businesses

Many startups are successful with sibling dynamics inside. The following tips on how to work with relatives may help you:

how to work with relatives


Alison Gutterman is the President and CEO of a family company that produces cleaning products. She manages the company after her father. However, she had a very different style of leadership with that of her father. She was not given with the title. Instead, she worked hard to earn them. Her main strategy was earning he spot in the company.

He took important steps to build the business upon the foundation, which her father built. After earning her roles as a CEO, Gutterman did several strategic steps, including modernizing the business by using technology and data-based decision making. Based on her experience, Gutterman shared some tips on how to work with relatives:

  • Find a mentor outside the organization to provide you with perspective on managing the company
  • If possible, the company may have an advisory groups who members are specifically family businesses. Each member can share experience and ideas with others.
Earth Friendly Products

The company produces environmentally friendly cleaners, which are safer for people, for pets, and for earth. Vlahakis-Hanks decided to maintain her father’s vision with the company since it was founded in 1967.  Vlahakis-Hanks had some reasons to maintain the products. The company was built upon the values of Greek culture, which is very close to natural world.

In addition, the world is faced with the global warming issues, which have encouraged ‘back to nature’ movements during the last several years. More and more consumers are now looking for eco-friendly products, including cleaning products. In the case of Earth Friendly Products, consistency with the product niche has enabled the company to sustain and even share the values with millions of consumers around the world.

Vlahakis-Hanks advises other family businesses to look back to the values, upon which the businesses was built as a strategy on how to work with relatives. When the family-dominated management does not know what to do, then taking a look back may provide them with insights on the business foundation. This way, the company can maintain and nourish them to become a unique identity.

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