April 4, 2017

Running a family business

IPA Group is a family business. The heads are husband and wife team, Aaron and Esther. The sales team is family. The editor is family. The designer, although not a blood relative, is now family! Even the new addition to our team, the SEO guy, is quickly fitting right into our family. We believe in working together for the betterment of our family, both nuclear and extended. If we have any more openings and have family members with the ability to fill those slots, we’ll look there first. Why? Well, because we already know how each another thinks, so if we’re having an “off” day, the others will (normally) understand; more so than complete strangers anyway.


I won’t lie; it’s not all a bed of roses. There are days when personal issues get in the way (just like in any other business) but we learn to separate our work-life and our family-life (also not easy as a husband and wife team, who are together 24/7!) and we make it work. It’s important to us to work as a family. It makes it easier in so many ways to already know your work colleagues. It also makes the overall goal easier to reach because everyone has the same vision. We’re all working to improve our family life.


I’ve always been surrounded by family working together. My dad is a farmer, his dad was a farmer, his brothers also, and they all worked together. Now my own brother is working with my dad on the family farm, and even his 6-year-old son is helping. It’s “normal” for me to see brothers and sisters, fathers and sons all working side by side for the advancement of their business.


Working with family means you get to spend more time together, sharing more than just a personal life. We have to be more honest with each other, as working together forces communication into other matters. Emotions are more present and play a more important role in business than when you work with non-family members. This can be both positive and negative. For example, you may be less likely to tell a sick family member to get on with the work than any other colleague.


Another task that becomes more difficult when working with family is parting ways. It’s never easy to fire people, but it’s made so much harder when they are your own flesh and blood. However, at the end of the day you’re running a business, and that business should come first, as it’s what helps put food on the table. If you’re working with a family member who isn’t pulling their own weight, are slow to work or are taking liberties because “they’re family”, they need to be thought of first and foremost as an employee. Yes, it’s great to be able to gainfully employ family, help them have a steady income, but if it’s detrimental to the organisation, it may be time to rethink it. Also, it shouldn’t be just assumed that because you are running a family business that you will just hire every member of the family. If they don’t fit into your business, you can’t justify hiring them.


There are many famous family businesses, including Walmart and BMW, but there are also families that form rival businesses. Two of the world's most renowned shoe companies were started from sibling rivalry. In the 1920s, German brothers Adolf and Rudolf Dassler launched a shoe company together, but after a huge fall-out, they split company and went their separate ways, launching Adidas and Puma. Then other businesses, such as Microsoft, won’t just hand the family business over to the children. Despite his immense wealth, Gates says his kids will only inherit $10 million each — just a fraction of his $81.1 billion net worth. "Leaving kids massive amounts of money is not a favor to them," he says.


As far as I’m concerned, working together as a family makes sense. We get to see each other so much more now than before when we had “normal” jobs. We also get to talk about things that we all now about, rather than meaningless chitchat about colleagues no one else knows. We know it’s the best fit for our family, and hope it continues for many years to come. Will we hand the business over to our sons when the time comes? Who knows? That’s still a long way off, and lots could happen between now and then – they might not even be interested in being a part of it. But given the chance, we will do everything in our power to help them form their own businesses, and hopefully they will follow our lead and work with family.


Esther Ocampo

IPA Group