Sometimes you are born with them. Other times they enter into your life and stick around until the end. Having a sibling is a truly one-of-a-kind partnership and remarkable bond. For some business owners, harnessing this relationship into a business setting has helped them flourish. But anyone with siblings can anticipate the bickering, the negotiations, and the personal strain that could come about when working with your brother or sister.
Four sets of siblings have been running franchises with their siblings for years. From bathroom remodeling to math tutoring, sporting goods resale to a chicken salad restaurant concept, successful sibling business owners speak to the advantage that working with your brother or sister can have. Check out their top tips for going into business with a sibling and the benefits of turning a lifelong relationship into an unwavering business partnership.
Know When It’s Work, and When It’s Play
Levi Wood, Jordan Wood, and Eric Barker (brother-in-law) of Re-Bath Milledgeville
We have been running our Re-Bath franchise since 2016, and in the time since then, our relationship has certainly been put to the test. Working together and with family is nothing new to us, though. When we were kids, our dad would have us out to job sites to help out. In the midst of our bickering, he shared with us the tip that still guides us to this day: you need to look at each other as co-workers, not brothers.
That has carried us through the years— knowing when to put on our business hats and when to take them off. When working with a sibling, you are not just dealing with a co-investor or partner. Instead, you are handling something more sacred that comes before all else: family. This means there is a lot more to lose if things go wrong, but it also means you are starting with a solid foundation that if treated well, can help you succeed. Since our dad first opened this Re-bath in 2000, we have had to move to a new warehouse five times the size to keep up with the increased demand we have seen across the 23 counties, and counting, that we serve.
Find a Balance of Power
Krista Rhymes and Ashley Keever, multi-unit franchisees of Chicken Salad Chick in Louisiana
We both have our individual strengths and weaknesses and we use that to our advantage. Krista is the business minded one and Ashley is the creative one. We always try to pick each other up and share the workload. After years in business together, we have learned to value each other’s opinions and not to take anything too personally. The way we support each other as sisters is the same way we have to support each other in our restaurants.
Our best tip for going into business with your sister is to maintain a balance of power. We are like bookends. Both of us hold the business together and prop each other up. You have to learn to balance one another out and share the workload in different ways.
We have learned to draw on our individual strengths and help each other out with our weaknesses. Along with our business partner Matthew Miller, we were named 2020 Owners of the Year winner and IFA 2021 Franchisee of the Year Award winners. While these awards are a great honor and milestone achievements in our lives, our success as business owners comes about in the quality of product we put forth and the support we supply employees across our three stores.
Play to Each Other’s Strengths
Mike Thoman and Nicole LaFountain surrounded by family and friends at their Play It Again Sports in Waterford
We opened our Play it Again Sports in Waterford, CT earlier this year. To get our doors open, we adopted a “divide and conquer” mentality, splitting up tasks and responsibilities according to our strengths.
While we have many of the same morals and values due to our shared upbringing, we are very different in our educational backgrounds that inform how we approach things. Mike comes from a background in network engineering and tends to look for streamlined solutions which saves us time and money in the long run. Nicole has two kids in sports, so she takes charge of ordering inventory, organizing community events, and doing social media outreach.
Opening a business is a leap of faith and can definitely have its challenges— we make it a point to inspire and motivate when one of us is feeling discouraged. It’s important to check-in with each other and honestly communicate. We all have off days, but on those days it’s nice to be partners with someone who you know and who knows you so well— we certainly have an advantage there. We always know what the other needs to hear and getting to work together keep us both laughing. Since opening our doors, it’s been a thrill to see people come through, come back, and refer friends to make our business a part of their family’s lives.
Be Complementary Parts of a Whole
Charles Fung of Mathnasium Hillsborough and Julia Fung of Mathnasium Plainsboro
Running a business requires crunching numbers and balancing finances. Even if your business is flawless on paper, the people who run it really define how it is going to perform. Finding the right leadership dynamic to run a business is a complex equation, but the two of us have found ways to compliment one another’s skills.
Julia is the a “big picture person” while Charles is an excellent “details” person. She excels with processes and he is strong with technology. We take different approaches when interacting with students, and it creates a nice variety within our Mathnasium.
Yet, undergirding all of our differences is that unconditional trust we have for one another because we have known each other all our lives. When working with a sibling, you have a deep insight into the other’s goals but can also appreciate how differently they approach things. Having grown up in the same household also means that we speak the same language that siblings speak. For us, to have started our own business is also following a family tradition of entrepreneurship which we hope we can pass down to our next generation as well. After all, we are the grandchildren of a self-made man who, in 1923, had founded a business that just celebrated its 100th anniversary in June 2023.