Working with family and friends; a recipe for disaster

A few years back my brother and his then girlfriend (now his wife) came up with an idea to start an online clothing company, he approached both myself and our father, and the idea seemed pretty solid and this was at a time that the Internet was just starting to roll and so the concept of being an online clothing retailer was exciting.  We approached someone with our idea and convinced him to invest in our idea and off we went and started the creation of our website which was to look like an actual fashion magazine, we hired models and held a photo shoot, and once our state of the art website was completed, we went to an online marketing and hosting company and placed our site in an online mall, which at the time was the thing to do. My brother and his girlfriend were in charge of fashion and buying, I was in charge of marketing, my father was the CEO and we had a CFO and this was the makeup of the executive management of our new company.

I come from a 100% old fashioned Italian family and for those of you who don’t know what that means; we are loud people, we yell and scream at each other, we call each other names in both Italian and English, and we eat a lot of bread and macaroni, for you non Italians, that’s pasta.  I tell you this simply to set the background of the atmosphere that we worked in on a daily basis, my brother yelling at me, “You can’t go to a sales meeting with a potential client wearing that stupid tie, its ugly and thin and went out of fashion in 1983!” and me yelling back at him “You don’t know anything about marketing, your young and dumb and think fashion is letting your ass hang out of your pants!” and my father yelling at us both, “Will you two shut the F@%$*&%$ up!”.

After a few months of this I decided that this was not working out and I resigned and decided that I would stick to doing my own thing.  A few months later the company folded which to be fair to my family full disclosure is warranted here, it would have folded whether or not I stayed or not, our ideas were light years ahead of where the Internet was going and our timing was just too soon, people were not ready yet.  Not too long after I hired my brother to work at my new company, and a short time after that I hired his girlfriend, both who worked for me for a little over a year, and it did not end well, the details are not really important, but they disagreed on what I should be paying them, what time they should be at work, what they should be doing while at work, well to make a long story short, I “dismissed” my future sister-in- law, yeah that’s right I did the unthinkable I fired a family member. She was not happy, my brother was not happy, and we had multiple arguments going on, there was an issue of some files that she deleted off her personal computer because she figured she didn’t need them anymore, I threatened not to pay her, she complained to my brother, who complained to my father, who called me and told me I needed to pay her.  In the Italian culture full grown men still get their parents involved in their sibling disputes.  Anyway I paid her, and had planned to all along, I was just pissed off.

Since then I have had the opportunity to work with two different friends who are no longer friends, without going into these stories, suffice just to say that when you work with someone every day, all day long, you learn things about them you didn’t know before, and you just don’t see them in the same way as you used too.

Based on these past experiences I do not do business with family or friends in any circumstances nor will I ever again.  I have had relatives ask me for a job because they were laid off or wanted a better job, and I always decline, because in the end it always end the same way, ugly.   I do employ my teenage son as a part time techie and occasional researcher,  and that is different, and we do argue on occasion, for some reason it is in his nature to be argumentative, I can’t imagine where this comes from.   But other than that as a general rule I do not do business with friends and family, because I want to keep the relationship in a positive status.  For the record it has been several years since I have worked with my brother and his wife and we all get along quite well, and I for one want to keep it that way.  Business decisions need to be made based on logic and intelligence, and the needs of the business, and I for one find that hard to do when you are dealing with family and friends.

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About Joe Melle

Joe Melle has founded and ran several successful businesses, and has had an interesting career in direct contact media, call center operations, sales operations, customer service operations, customer retention, and quality assurance; he has written over 140 business articles, previously served as a part time adjunct professor for a university teaching business, marketing, and management courses to both graduate and post graduate students.Email Me

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