Working with Family

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Guest post by Stacey MacNaught

I work in the SEO industry and it’s common in the industry to joke and laugh about trying to explain what we do for a living to our parents.

But when I set up my own SEO consultancy in 2018, my first hire was my mother!

She had absolutely no experience whatsoever in SEO and was joining me from a completely different industry.

Fast forward 18 months and things have been fantastic. So much so, I’ve also hired two of my cousins, a non-family member copywriter and my husband works in the business full time too.

I heard a lot of mixed opinions about working with family before I decided to do it myself.

Lots of experts would advise you against it but I’ve had a great experience, so I plan to share what has worked for us and the ways in which we’ve avoided common pitfalls.

Discuss the Worst Case Scenario Before You Take the Leap

I firmly believe that your first hire needs to be someone who is totally bought into the success of your business.

The first hire is so, so important.

And who would ever be more bought into your success than your own mother?

But hiring my mum also came with its risks. She was coming into the industry blind, with no experience.

  • What would happen if she couldn’t grasp the job?
  • What if the business didn’t work out and I had to lay her off?
  • What if we fell out?

Those concerns crossed my mind so we spoke honestly about it and I think this is very important.

We agreed that if it wasn’t working out for whatever reason, we’d talk openly about it and I’d give her as much time and support as I could to find an alternative.

This put us both at ease, knowing that we would be able to be open about things if either of us was not happy for whatever reason. I think it’s critical.

We’ve never had to have the chat, thankfully.

Separate Work from Personal Life

I love my family dearly. If there’s ever something I need them to do at work that they might not like doing or we disagree on something in general, I need to know it won’t affect our personal relationships outside of work.

Before you begin working together, it’s important to agree that work and family life are separate and whatever happens during the day does not interfere with family life.

Again, I’ve been fortunate that I haven’t had any serious disagreements with my family at work. But we’ve all been clear on this from the start.

Avoid Preferential Treatment

Most of the 6 people within our business are related — but one is not.

Working with someone else’s family business has its perks. Our copywriter, Liz, gets on so well with us all and is treated as an extension of our family. She enjoys the relatively laid back atmosphere of a small family business too.

But it’s important that everyone is treated exactly the same just as would be the case in any business.

We make a real effort to ensure everyone has the same holiday allowance, perks, benefits etc. Nobody is paid more for just being related and nobody gets anything special just because they’re family.

Keep Talking

I don’t live with my two cousins or my mother, so when we leave the office, we have some space from one another.

But I do live with my husband.

We’re not in the office together every single day. I am often out at client sites or events and there is one day a week where either of us looks after our youngest child.

So there are still usually three days a week where we’re working together in the office all day and then are at home together all night.

Spending so much time with someone, no matter how much you love them, can be testing.

We’ve found the best way to overcome problems so far is to keep talking about any issues we have. If we have a disagreement in the office, we talk about it calmly there and then as opposed to letting it stew and taking it home with us. 

Take Time Out

Particularly when it is someone you live with, working together and spending all your time out of work together can be very trying. 

My husband and I regularly take time out where one of us might go off and spend a night or a weekend with friends while the other looks after things at home. We both have hobbies outside of the home.

I think that’s particularly important when you live and work together.

Will it work for you?

I can’t say for certain it will work for everyone. Every family is different.

For me, working with people who I know want the business to be successful, who I know have my back and who I can be open and honest with has been at the centre of the success we’ve had over the past 2 years.

Family standing together after work