Sibling partnerships create a dynamic environment - especially when managing relationships in a highly competitive multi-unit franchisee organization. Everything can feel personal because nothing can be "just business."
It is common to have varying opinions and differences in your personal relationships, and this is especially true with siblings. Growing up together, you share common memories and history. If your history resembles closeness, and reflects a deep and trusting bond, this can play into partner dynamics both positively and negatively. Sure, you all work together wonderfully, and are able to accomplish great things as a team. However, on the outside, to non-family members, your bond and togetherness might be intimidating and work against you in gaining the trust and respect of your other team members. In addition, with siblings that have strong bonds, communication among them can cause confusion to outside team members. Criticism or "coaching" between siblings can be interpreted as dissatisfaction or dysfunction when in reality, at times, this is a straightforward and no-nonsense way siblings communicate.
On the other side, if there are no tight bonds and there are memories of anger, resentment, and undermining, then the natural behavior in the business will match the family norm. If there is history of always being "daddy's little girl," "mommy's little boy," the reckless one, goodie two-shoes, or whatever status you felt you or your sibling had, that too plays into how you work together as adults. No matter what, you are different from one another and have likely grown out of whatever adolescent labels you may have carried - but, with siblings, it's easy to fall into old patterns and some underlying sibling rivalry.
So how do you walk that tight rope and work towards finding a balance of sibling harmony in the business? Is it possible?
As with any multi-unit franchisee partnerships, the first question needs to be, "Am I in this for the betterment of the business, or is the business here to serve me?" Once you can answer this question, you can proceed to understanding relationships. When approaching pressure points of predictable conflict, it is essential for both parties to recognize the behavior patterns, and commit to finding better ways of interacting.
There are a couple of paths to getting here. First, avoid terms like "always" and "never." Those terms can immediately throw you back to accusing and defending old stereotypes that may not be relevant to today. Second, identify what each other bring to the table. Identify your strengths and where can you bring the most value to the business, and focus on staying in your lane. Offer ideas with an attitude of collaborative input, but defer to your sibling's authority in their area of responsibility. Recognize your weaknesses and get out of the way of those that are stronger and more experienced in areas than you.
Recognizing each other's strengths and weaknesses is an important piece of gaining respect of your siblings and peers. The more you are authentic in who you are and recognize what you do and do not excel in, the more people will separate you from being the brother or sister, and rather, lift you up on your own for who you are.
Respect comes in many forms. Key to managing sibling partnerships is respecting boundaries (family, personal, and business), and understanding there is a lot of grey in mixing family in business. For example, a family member may not agree with an approach on how they raise their family or manage personal expenses, but that doesn't necessarily mean it is wrong - it may just be different. However, these feelings can play into the day-to-day operations of the business, because if your sibling does not respect what you are doing outside the office, you will be constantly judged when you make decisions or do things on behalf of the organization. This is why and where setting firm and reasonable boundaries are critical - respect for each other's role/responsibilities, authority, and strengths/weaknesses. By working towards recognition and respect, you protect yourself and your siblings from making judgments and decisions that can become destructive and impact business/family relationships.
As much as one will verbalize they would like to keep family dynamics and business decisions separate, as human beings it is impossible for us to completely compartmentalize the two. Understand, in sibling partnerships, all family members in the business are juggling two contradictory responsibilities - family and business. Give each other the benefit of the doubt and work as hard as possible to be empathetic and compassionate to each other's points of views. Through understanding one can build respect, and with respect one can build trust. With trust combative business/family conflicts can become discussions.
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