Growing up, I’m not sure either my father or I ever dreamed we would be business partners. Fortunately, life clearly had a different plan for us. (You can read the full story on how Shorr Solutions came to be here. The launch of the management side came a bit later; you can read that story here.)
In the industry, we’ve become known as “that father-daughter” team. We each love being associated with the other but the question that remains is: “How do you manage working together?”
Family businesses are far from uncommon and are even more popular in certain fields. We’ve found there are certain parameters that help set the stage for success. This could whether the relationship involves that of a parent, child, sibling, or spouses.
- Like Tony Danza, know “Who’s the Boss.” I initially started out as a contract employee for Shorr Solutions and I still had my own marketing and community relations company, The Leone Company. (Read the full story here.) While working for my father, I knew he was the boss. He had the final say and I advised him, ultimately, what he said went. Overall, we saw how well we worked together. Overtime, that business relationship quickly morphed into a formal partnership about seven months later. Now, we’re equal partners and treat each other as such. He doesn’t make large decisions without my blessing, despite my being his daughter and 30 years his junior; I run all major decisions by him as well. We are a team and work as such.
- Be similar where you need to be; be different where you need to be. Respect each other’s domain. My father works with our clients on the operational, administrative, and financial health of their businesses. He’s the one that analyzes their finances and negotiates their equipment and leasing space for them. (The thought of a strong negotiation invigorates him and, if we’re being honest, intimidates me.) I work on the marketing and business development for OUR business. I also handle those items for our clients, as needed. I’m the one that makes sure meetings are set up appropriately in our calendars, and I joke that I’m the “CFUO,” or Chief Follow-Up Officer, of the company. My father and I each have our own domains and have broken the business up according to our own strengths.
- Know the appropriate time to be family and time to be focused on business. Unless there’s something REALLY exciting that just can’t wait, I don’t call my father at 6:30 a.m. to follow up on a contract. He doesn’t call me after a certain hour with a business question, either. However, we know that as a father and daughter, those call times are always okay. (He often starts a late night call with, “This is DAD calling, not your business partner.” It may sound corny but it sets the tone for a more casual conversation.) Of course, while those calls are always welcome, we know that the work day is reserved for business conversations, not other family issues. We do our best to keep that rule in place.
- Business is business. Sometimes, we have to have tough conversations. Sometimes, one of us cracks the whip on the other. This is okay because the conversations are always done with respect and honesty. There’s never yelling, cursing, or pulling rank. (We don’t have that relationship in our personal lives either, but I understand all family dynamics are different.) Also, when we’re in a business setting, I always call him by his first name. (The one exception: when we’re in Las Vegas for conferences, and we know people aren’t quite understanding that we’re father and daughter. With a 30-year age gap, people sometimes get the wrong impression about our relationship in that city, and a quick, “Hey, Dad!” clears that up fairly quickly.)
- It’s okay to make the lines crystal clear. If we’re being totally honest, we actually drew up a business contract before we started working together as well. Like I said, business is business.
For us, working together has been an incredible learning experience and adventure.