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How to Strike a Balance When You're in Business with Your Closest One Learn how to avoid such conflicts in business and maintain a cordial relationship

By Komal Nathani

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The biggest nightmare of any business head in the family business is not debt, currency fluctuation or economic crisis. But it's the feud between the partners in business, which could result in failure.

Time and again, we have encountered stories of family businesses losing the grip due to conflicts between the business partners who also share family relations. From India's famous Ambani brothers business division to Singapore's investment firm Hip Hoe controversy and Hong Kong's restaurant business owner Yung Kee, there has been a series of cases where the brand image of businesses has been destroyed.

Here's how to avoid such conflicts in business and maintain a cordial relationship.

Set Clear Goals Beforehand

Docklands-based co-working space, Hatch Quarter is run by two brothers Aiman and Mo Hamdouna. When Aiman and Mo came to Australia to complete their higher education before starting the business, what kept them strong throughout was their strong relationship in the country, which was completely new to them. In 2015, they started a co-working space to help migrant and refugee entrepreneurs setting up their businesses in Australia. But how the duo strikes a balance in their work and home life? Mo explains how having each other's back makes the business more efficient.

The pointers that make us always together are these:

  • Make sure you set clear expectations from the start and clearly communicate what needs to be done at work.

  • Decide about what's acceptable to discuss about at work and have a firm division of work and home, make that clear.

  • Set a boundary between family time and work time.

  • Create house rules about which family matters are permissible to talk about at the office and vice versa.

  • It can be helpful to note which hat you're wearing before embarking on a conversation.

Strike the Balance

Another entrepreneurial duo Andy Dillow and his wife is setting precedence for those life partners who are also business partners. Andy and Amy run a firm called The Intern Group, which is based in New York. Ex-business advisor and investor Andy started working at the company after quitting his corporate job as a management consultant in investment banking with his wife Amy Taylor. The Intern Group is an award-winning firm that places top participants in international internship programs.

"Apart from the risk of leaving our safe but dull corporate jobs, one of the major challenges was that we never really found an idea that we were truly passionate about. It was only when we stumbled across The Intern Group and began to realise the potential impact it could have in helping people to discover their passion and reach their potential that we agreed to jump in," says Andy.

Away from their corporate careers, both Amy and Andy are enjoying their entrepreneurial journey. While Andy looks after The Intern Group as a director of the firm Amy relishes the challenge of her new role as NYC Program Coordinator and looks forward to working and welcoming interns from all over the world to start their new endeavor in New York.

Speaking about the challenge in managing their work-life, the duo says, "It was a definitely a challenge at first because we'd never worked together and had no idea how to separate work and life. In the end, though it gave us more flexibility rather than less and we were able to find a balance that meant we enjoyed working together to solve problems to build the US business, and we knew when to switch off (he says sending this at 1 am)."

"There is still the odd occasion when we laugh about slacking each other from different rooms, but in general it's great to work with someone that you know you can trust to get stuff done and at the very least we're a lot more interested in hearing about each other's day than when we were a consultant and a lawyer," adds Amy.

Making it Perfect!

Lee Carlin and Megan Tyler, who handle the London and Dublin operation of The Intern Group also share their experiences of working together in business, who are also partners. "Meghan and my working partnership was as accidental as it was born out of necessity. The all-consuming and pressurized reality of the start-up stage of the business meant that Megan gained a great insight into the business as it took over my life."

"Work was brought home, the hours were long and there was literally no separation between our personal and working life for large periods. Sacrifices were made and her support was valued and important to me," he adds. Carlin is the co-founder of The Intern Group and Megan heads the London Placement Team of the company.

"Working with my partner ensured that I had complete trust and loyalty in her. There was a real buy-in from her that doesn't always exist. Her belief and commitment to the company meant she went above and beyond to meet and exceed our goals," quips Carlin. Here are some challenges that couple went through it and how they deal with it.

  • Spending a lot of time together can be a pressure cooker of emotions, especially when you are in a relationship. Sometimes bad moments or issues (that every young business inevitably encounters) can feel worse as we can't offer each other an outside perspective. This can raise stress levels during a stressful period.

  • Lack of work conversation - we basically never have the typical couple chat about 'their day at work' as we are often together - but that's perhaps a good thing!"

Komal Nathani

Former Correspondent, Entrepreneur Asia Pacific

A firm believer of hard work and patience. Love to cover stories that hold a potential to change the momentum of business world. Currently, a part of all-women web team of Entrepreneur’s Asia Pacific edition to jig the wheel of business journalism!


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