One of the questions Rachael and I get asked most often is what it is like working with our sister. People ask a range of sibling related questions: “who is older?”, “are you twins?”, “do you always get along?”, and so on. While Rachael and I are relatively new to business, family run business is something we have always been exposed to through our parents. With this combined experience, these are a few of the considerations we have taken, and observations I have made:
- Skills matter most: While it may seem like Rachael and I are a pair out of convenience, it’s not true at all. Our individual talents and strengths are actually quite different and complementary! With my background in nursing, and Rachael’s background in business, we very naturally gravitate to different areas. Besides the obvious, there are other aspects of business where our natural skills have expressed themselves over the past several months; Rachael for example is very natural in customer service while I gravitate more intrinsically toward hiring and training. Recognizing and allowing for this has been such an energy saver. While developing new skills (especially the ones that don’t come easily!) is important, having a business partner that complements your existing skills, while bringing new ones into the partnership, is synergy at its finest! Rachael and I do share many sisterly qualities, but recognizing and nurturing our differences is serving us, and our business, very well!
- Sometimes we’re not family: Anyone with siblings can appreciate that sometimes in our closest relationships familiarity can inhibit consideration. Looking back to August, when the idea of ‘Plan A Nipissing’ was vague and abstract, this was the first conversation Rachael and I had. We recognized that in order for our partnership to be successful, we would need to respect each other constantly, not allowing ourselves to take the liberties siblings often allow themselves out of frustration or tiredness. Rachael and I have been diligent in treating each other with the respect you would naturally afford a co-worker. While it may seem obvious or simple, this has been a newly learnt behaviour, and a complete game changer in many ways.
- Partners since birth: One of the biggest benefits of knowing my ‘business partner’ intimately has been the ability to have truly honest conversations. While boundaries must be created and respected, being sisters also means that Rachael and I have been working together for our whole lives. In this, we are comfortable being a sounding board for each other’s ‘rough draft’ ideas. We constantly discuss ways to make our business better and more efficient. I think that being comfortable initiating conversations about unpolished ideas, knowing that 8/10 times the idea may go nowhere, has benefited us greatly!
If you are considering entering into a business partnership with a loved one I would encourage an honest assessment of the following: are your natural talents different and complementary? Are you both committed to maintaining respect for the other, especially when it is not easy? And, are you prepared to both give and receive feedback in terms of an honest sounding board? So far, these have been the major contributors to our successful and enjoyable business sister-ship! Oh, and in case you too are wondering: I am older, we are not twins (but people ask often!), and we almost always get along – we are sisters after all! 😉