Persuading Your Loved Ones to Pitch In

A Professional Opinion

While having family members pitch in works well for Windle, Julie Barnes, Ph.D., a psychologist in private practice in New York City, cautions that there are some serious issues to consider.

Barnes speaks from experience on the topic of families working together in business, having been involved in her family's petroleum business for 20 years. Barnes agrees that people in a crunch should ask for help. "My mother grew up on a farm, and everybody worked and did chores to keep the family going," Barnes says. "They worked together for their mutual benefit and survival. This is somewhat different, however, than trying to get cheap or free labor from your friends and loved ones."

If you're trying to meet a tough deadline, Barnes says, "I don't think there's anything wrong with having a [combination work session]/pizza party, as long as it's not a frequent occurrence and as long as you're appreciative and willing to [return the favor.]"

What concerns Barnes, however, as a psychologist who works with both children and adults, is the issue of children who work as part of a homebased business. "I think children should work only for the following reasons: It's necessary for the financial survival of the family or because they really want to work." In addition, she emphasizes, parents should be sure the child's involvement in the homebased business doesn't conflict with the primary duties of childhood-school, play and extracurricular activities.

Says Barnes, "Unless the whole family must work for survival, I think children should be rewarded in pay for the hours or job they do. It teaches them important lessons about money, responsibility and the consequences of their actions. It is, after all, work, not a household chore or a school task. It should also be up to the child what to do with his or her money-within reason. Older teens and children should be paid at least minimum wage because that's what they would get in the real world. Younger children can be paid less because they can only do small tasks for short periods of time."

If you're not offering payment (for example, a close friend or relative may decline monetary reimbursement for his or her time), Barnes feels that you should "ask them, and [then] ask them again if it's all right." She also suggests you ask the person if there's another way you can pay them, perhaps by doing a reciprocal favor.

In general, Barnes sees both benefits and drawbacks to having your family help with your homebased business. The benefits include the opportunity to work with the people you love and trust the most. "You can be reasonably certain that they will do their best for you," Barnes says. But the drawbacks are also significant. Family members may feel resentful, says Barnes, or even become envious of your success. In addition, she cautions that you may give people responsibilities they can't really manage, just because they are close to you. "Because you're less formal," Barnes says, "you may not treat them with the respect and boundaries you would give to a professional colleague. Most important, if you have a disagreement or a problem, your personal relationship is threatened along with your business." To avoid potential problems, Barnes suggests that you keep business and personal issues separate and be scrupulously honest when issues do come up.


Joanne Eglash is the author of How To Write A .Com Business Plan.

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