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This is not just about POLE. This is about BUSINESS.
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How to work with family and friends

Being a small business owner is tough! You are often working in your business serving customers and on your business, working to improve processes like marketing and sales usually ALL at the same time! Because of these challenges, and not being able to find more time in the day or successfully clone ourselves, we often recruit family and friends to help.

Working with family and friends can be extremely rewarding. Often these are people we can trust with our “business baby” who also share similar mindsets and work ethics. But because of the closeness with those same people, sometimes feelings get more easily hurt, corrections are misunderstood, and suddenly Thanksgiving dinners gets a whole lot more awkward.

We talked to several people who’ve regularly worked with family and friends in their businesses over two decades to come up with the top three tips on how to help your business and preserve your personal relationships.

1. Set clear expectations.

Just like having an employee who has a specific role with specific tasks within your business, make sure your friend or family member knows exactly what they’re doing. Also, make sure to discuss costs and payments up front. If you can’t pay them now (or ever), make that abundantly clear. Consider setting up a contract to make sure your family member or friend AND you know exactly what you’re all getting into!

2. Set clear boundaries.

Let’s face it, the idea of work/life balance just doesn’t exist for most small business owners. When you’re working with friends and family though, make sure you know when it’s time to have fun and when it’s time to talk shop. Although they may share your passion, they might not share all of your workaholic tendencies. Be clear about when it’s time to “turn off” for the night. Consider making rules about talking about business while on vacation or during other leisure times. For more about professional boundaries, read this.

3. Be professional—Always.

While it’s tempting to fall into old and familiar patterns when working with friends and family, understand that you are running a business. Silly nicknames, embarrassing stories, and being more casual with how you talk to those closest to you doesn’t always fly in a business environment, especially if you work with a mix of friends and colleagues. As the business owner, you set the tone! Make sure it’s the tone you intend to set.

Overall, working with friends and family can be extremely rewarding and help set you and your business up for success. Make sure you consider these tips to make the experience a long-term success for everyone involved!


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