I’m addicted to watching Brandy and Ray J’s reality show “A Family Business”, not only because I like Brandy as an artist, but because there is so much to it that I can relate to.  The fights, the love, the tears, the laughter, the support, the division.  Running a family business is a reality show on it’s own!

I have always liked the thought of being part of a family business, because I am so family oriented and I like working for myself, and why shouldn’t the money be kept in the family? But I didn’t realise how hard it would be, especially after you’ve been apart for so long.  

Families are still made up of individuals.  These individuals might have different values, work ethics and perspectives from each other, which obviously can cause challenges and friction within the business.

As a family we’ve never been good with confrontation, we shy away from it and hope that the problem with resolve itself, without us having to do anything.  But like with any conflict, resentment and frustration is bound to build.  The good thing about a family is that you can overcome these feelings, because your love for each other usually is the over-riding factor.

However, from my experience over the last 11 months I’ve been in the company, I’ve also come to realise that the things people love about a family business can also be it’s downside.  There are certain things you allow people to do because they are family, whereas if that was done in a public owned corporation for example, they’d be fired for.  I always remember one episode in A Family Business, when Ray J rocks up for a management meeting late, drunk (or possibly hungover) and completely derails the meeting by either falling asleep or strumming on a guitar (I can’t remember which).  We haven’t had exactly the same experience but similar…

I think for any start up to flourish – family owned or otherwise all the business partners must be committed and have a shared goal or vision (more than to just make money) and have to put the time and effort to realise that vision.  If you don’t all do it, then that’s when the resentment starts to build and you have to nip it in the bud before it overcomes you.

Know each other’s strengths and respect it, but make decisions based on what is best for the business and not what is best for the individual, there might be an m and an e in team, but there really isn’t an I.  Sometimes as the ‘team leader’ these decisions seem hard but you can’t afford to bury your head in the sand, not if you want your business to grow.  And other times you have to let go of the business, because it might be the right thing to do for your health and your sanity.  Find like-minded people to work with, who will want to succeed as much as you and put in the effort to do so.

These are my learnings from my own family business – there are so many successful ones out there so it’s best to learn from those to really grow and be sustainable.  But always remember that the business should be before the family – unless the business is just a hobby for the entire family!