Starting a business with a family member? Six tips to make it a success

Are you considering starting a business with a family member? Read six tips to make it a success from a happy mother and son partnership.

Family can be many things to us – our home, our protectors, our friends, our confidantes. But what happens when a member of our family is also our business partner?

It’s not unusual for families to run businesses. Indeed, 35% of Fortune 500 companies are family-controlled. And research suggests that one of the reasons a family business works is because the team have shared core values and are working with people they trust.

Of course, that’s not always the case – just look at Gucci.

Mother and son duo, Deborah de Maio and Rem Malloy set up their company Italy4Real together in 1995. 21 years later the company is still going strong – and there have been no family feuds along the way! So what’s their secret?

Starting a business with a family member? Six tips to make it a success

If you’re thinking of going into business with a family member – be that your parent, sibling or second-cousin-once-removed – here are Deborah and Rem’s six best tips for making it a success.

1) Spot a gap in the market

Just like any business, if you want to give your family-owned enterprise the best chance of success, you’ll find a new way to solve a common problem.

Italy4Real was born after we struggled to find a tour operator who could offer a truly specialist guided tour of Italy. We immediately spotted this massive gap in the market and we jumped on it.

We knew there was an appetite for authentic Italy travel tours and we felt we were in a position to offer that. We were able to create a truly unique service and that has been the key to finding and keeping loyal customers, as well as expanding our company out to include more of Europe.

2) Find a shared passion

If you have a truly expert knowledge and an interest in your product or service, you’ll be able to provide something above and beyond your competitors.

Our inspiration came about when we were looking to travel to Italy together – a place we are both passionate about as we have Italian roots.

One of the reasons we work so well together is that we both have a shared enthusiasm for the country we provide tours for and the product we are offering; it’s so important that you are both fully committed to and excited by your business idea.

On a practical level, our knowledge and passion for Italy, as well as our local connections, allows us to offer expert guidance and recommendations to our customers and share with them some of the hidden gems of Italy.

3) Accept and use your differences

Of course, while we both have a shared love for Italy and our business, we also have plenty of differences. Doesn’t every mother and son?!

Working with people who are different from you will always present a challenge – family or not. However, we have found a way to accept our differences and use them to our advantage by each specialising in the areas in which we excel.

If you are more organised while your relative is more creative, you could take on more of the administrative work while they manage the marketing elements. If you are more of a people person with great communication skills, while your partner is mathematically-minded, you can take on customer and client facing tasks like sales, while they concentrate on accounting.

Being open and honest about each other’s strengths and weaknesses is the best way to share your workload effectively. The good thing about working with family is it’s much easier to be honest with each other about these things and make compromises.

4) Respect each other

In any family working relationship it can sometimes be too easy to still see each other in those family roles while in the office – especially as a parent and child partnership. However, when you are in the office you are co-owners and colleagues, and you deserve each other’s professionalism and respect – the same as you would give to any other colleague.

That means not pulling a strop because your mum disagrees with you, or insisting that you know better because you are the parent; the workplace is equal ground.

It’s also important that you provide an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere for everyone if you have other employees. This means no standing around the water cooler for half an hour talking about what Great Aunt Mary did at the last family wedding.

Your employees should see you both as approachable individuals, and not a family team which they can never fully be a part of.

5) Leave work at the office

In the same way that you should leave family gossip out of the office, you should also keep business chat away from family events; the whole family doesn’t want to hear about your Monday morning meeting.

When running your own business, it can be more difficult than ever to find that work-life balance and know when to put work to bed for the night.

This is even more true when you are still seeing your business partner in the evening or at the weekend, but it’s important for you and them that you know when to forget about work for at least a few hours and enjoy some leisure time. Even when you own your own business, it’s important to find some time to yourself each day.

6) Enjoy it

Work is a huge part of our lives – we spend a large majority of our week at work, and for many this is at the detriment of spending time with your family and loved ones.

The great thing about working with family is that you get to spend that work time together too, so enjoy and make the most of that time together. It is also amazing being able to share your success and ambition with someone who loves and inspires you – whether that’s working with mum who you’ve always looked up to, or sharing in the success of your son who has always made you proud.

When setting up your own business it is also crucial to work with people who you trust – and the great thing is that you get to handpick your co-owners and employees, which isn’t always the case when working for a company. So who better to take on that important role than your family?

Italy4Real are a European holiday specialist offering bespoke guided tours of Italy and wider Europe.