Six Tips for Running a Successful Business with Siblings

The Moipei Quartet, an example of good sibling business partnership.

They say the first friendship a child forms is with either a brother or sister. It would make sense especially if you grow up around the same ages and transition around the same time. I have friends and a couple of relatives who have started businesses as siblings. I always ask them how they do it and here are a few tips that they have given me over a period of time.

1-      Set the ground rules: this is essential as it enables all to be on the same page and can give expectation of the roles each one has to play. One example is a friend of mine who runs a fashion design firm with her sisters. She does most of the marketing, and one of her sisters does the sewing while the other checks on the accounts. It is not always easy but it does allow smooth operations to take place.

2-      Find a common ground:  Removing old habits for siblings of the usually bickering can be difficult. It is important to focus on the main goal of the business. For example a bakery might want to make the best wedding cakes in the city of Nairobi. They would not go to baking an assortment of pastries, instead they would focus on getting the best cake baking techniques and wedding designs.

3-      Do not base authority on hierarchy: The role of the leader shouldn’t necessary fall on the oldest; it should be taken by the one with that skill. It is crucial give support to the person with the skill. One example is a jewelry store where the youngest can be the expert in curving the jewelry while the oldest could be manning the reception. Businesses grow because of structures, not individuals.

4-      Put everything on paper: it is easy to assume that roles and expectations have been expressed and agreed on. The obvious is not necessarily so, which is one thing I have learnt the hard way. For siblings, it is essential to have everything on paper from day one as the opposite can lead to painful and costly consequences.

5-      Ensure there is communication: ensuring lines of communication are open whereby each person has an understanding of roles taking place in the company is paramount. Have consistent update meetings, the frequency of which varies from business to business. This reduces chances of arguments occurring as well as ensures smooth operations.

6-      Cut your coat as per your cloth: It is important to work with your resources as well as be conscious of needs. Things to do may seem obvious but an emotional environment needs not being strained further by such limits as money or talent. Companies such as contracting businesses are always in need of resources. These businesses are usually formed by families and you will see adverts depicting brothers or sons as part of the brand name. Understanding the limits is the first step in avoiding conflict.

These tips are some of the factors my friends and relatives think can be evaluated to build strong businesses. The great thing about forming a family business is that it becomes part of the legacy. Do you have a business with a family member? Please tell me your story. Let’s learn from each other.

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Nyakio Kiruthu

 

Nyakio Kiruthu left the world of banking after 4years to venture into the world of business. She is a shareholder of Thayu Farm hotel, a family business. She holds a degree in Economics and Masters in International Business which enables her to explore the world of business through a unique perspective.

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