Guest Blog: Starting up with a sibling

For entrepreneurs thinking of starting up with their brother or sister, what makes some partnerships prosperous and other preposterous? Sibling founders most often have the benefit of inherent trust, honesty and a shared ethos, but childhood rivalries can often arise, bringing with them a host of problems unwelcome in the workplace. When I set up Purplebricks.com with my brother Kenny, we knew that maintaining our great personal relationship was key to making our business flourish. If you’re considering this unique business journey, here are some top tips to keep in mind and help your sibling-run business towards success:

1. Know each of your skills and divide accordingly

As siblings, you’re likely to have lots of characteristics in common, but you will most probably have several key differences. Play to your strengths and make sure your roles complement each other’s to give your business everything it needs. Don’t fall into typecasts just because they are expected of you – the eldest sibling doesn’t have to be the leader, the organiser, and so forth. Take time to evaluate where your respective strengths lie and how you can combine your skills for the benefit of your company.

For example, while I am more of a strategist and a planner, my brother Kenny is more hands-on and runs the day-to-day operations on the ground. I pull together the global strategy while Kenny supports our sales people.

When Walt and Roy Disney founded the Disney Company, they knew to play to their individual and complementary strengths. Walt had the creativity and imagination, while Roy handled the finances, business conversations and structure of the business necessary to turn his brother’s vision into reality.

With this in mind, it is important to assess your own talents and allocate individual roles to bring the best of your characteristics together.

2. Put everything in writing from the start

It is a good idea to plan out your aims, strategy, responsibilities and remuneration in writing from the start. Just because you have a close personal relationship, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make everything watertight from the off. Ideally hire a lawyer to help you set everything out. This kind of arrangement prevents confusion or resentments arising later down the line – don’t rely on an informal agreement for what should be a formal business arrangement.

3. Resolve differences as soon as they arise

Because siblings are more likely to be ruthlessly honest with each other than unrelated co-founders might be, disagreements will inevitably arise throughout your journey together.

As with any business relationship, communication is key. But making sure you resolve differences as soon as they arise is even more paramount when you are working alongside a sibling – brothers and sisters have a tendency to let disagreements stew, just like old childhood resentments. This can bubble over into your personal lives, and cause tension even in work downtime.

During disagreements, make sure that you communicate honestly and transparently, to come to a carefully considered solution and maintain a healthy personal and business relationship throughout.

4. Manage sibling time vs work time

Being able to separate your work relationship from your personal relationship can be incredibly tricky when working alongside a brother or sister, but it’s important to ensure you manage ‘sibling time’ vs. ‘work time’. Spending the first few minutes of a meeting chatting about your personal lives means your work time is less efficient, while letting business talk seep through to the family time you spend with the other can mean your personal relationship becomes overshadowed by work.

Setting specific meeting times can help separate business and personal time. It may seem artificial to divide up your time together this way, but knowing that you have allocated purposes to your meetings will both increase productivity and alleviate stress outside of work.

  

Having the opportunity to start a business with my brother is one that I am very grateful for and something that must not be taken for granted. Maintaining a consistently great relationship with your sibling isn’t without its challenges, but if you embrace each other’s strengths and lay down the foundations early, there is no reason why the business journey can’t be a very successful one. Starting a business with my brother has introduced new challenges into our existing friendship, but I am pleased to say we are certainly stronger and better for it.

  

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