Family Business: It's a Pleasure Doing Business With You... Dad

Wilson Guitar VenturesIt works for The Jonas Brothers, but what about you and your brother? Would going into business with him be a good idea? Whatever the case, the family-business connotation in the mind of the consumer is usually a good one; so much so, that "sons," "brothers," and even aunts and uncles have all been getting in on the company stationary for centuries -- even when they don't actually exist (sorry, but it's true: There never was a real Aunt Jemima flipping pancakes.)

Such is the case with Wilson Brothers Guitars. Tim Wilson, the proprietor of the international company, doesn't have a brother. However, he is in business with his father, legendary rhythm guitarist of the surf rock band The Ventures. And this is not the first time Wilson has worked with family. So, is it a good idea?

Family ties not always enough

According to Wilson, as with toiling away in any business, it's all about fitting with the people whether they are family or not. His experience with his sister and brother-in-law in the restaurant business didn't end entirely well. "I had years of experience in the restaurant world and so did they, although none of us had ever owned one. We were all passionate about the business, we were all excited to get started, and things started off well; but in time we discovered we had a lot of differences about operations. I went on to open my own restaurant that was a success and still is after I sold it, and my ex-brother-in-law still owns and operates his.

"A few years after selling my restaurant, I brought an idea to my father about manufacturing and selling a Ventures model guitar. That was seven years ago, and I have to say it has been a great experience working with my dad. I'm closer to his world and experiencing some things I could have never have otherwise had the opportunity to know. It has had its ups and downs just like any other business, but I am very proud to work with my dad's legacy -- that's what sets it apart from just manufacturing guitars."

Pros and cons

Francesco Clark of Clark's Botanicals began his now super-successful worldwide skincare brand at home with his parents. Clark was injured and his skin was adversely affected. He began trying out the organic concoctions for himself, but once he saw how well they worked, he blazed a trail to share his products with consumers. And having parents in the medical field was extremely helpful.

"The pros of working with family are that they only have one outlook and one goal for you in that they want the idea to be successful," says Clark. "You don't fall into those pitfalls of 'they are just out for money.' Or they're just out because of their ego or they're doing it for different reasons rather than wanting the actual business to be doing well.

"The other pro about it, is I work from home. I'm always working -- which is a pro and con, because I work with my family and sometimes we haven't got the same off hours. I had to kind of set aside some time certain days. Like Thursday night dinners and Sunday night dinners, where I'm not going to work. It's brought us all closer."

Be upfront about everything

That's all well and good, knowing that (hopefully) your family has your back and you do get to deepen your interpersonal relationship with them (plus, if you're successful you keep all the moolah in the family coffers), but what about the icky stuff like contracts and lawyers and getting everything in writing?

According to Mark Green, a clinical professor of family business at Seattle University, if the business owner is you or a close relative, a formal employment agreement is probably extreme, but you should have a written description of your role and responsibilities and the organizational structure. "Work as much out as possible upfront, like expectations about compensation, perks, even what happens if things don't work out, because if you leave you still have to see these people at family gatherings."

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