We wanted to start with a quick background of our personal experience to give some context of our recommendations for a healthy family business.
Chris and Kendall are definitely no strangers to the RoofersCoffeeShop world or the industry in general. Chris has been in roofing for about 18 years and Kendall for about 17.
Kendall is a graduate of the NRCA’s Future Executives Institute and Chris is currently enrolled and will graduate in 2024. They were previously a part of Kendall’s family's business and there were definitely some highs and some lows and it just ultimately didn’t end up working out to transition to the next generation. However, they knew that they ultimately wanted to own their own company and in October 2021 they were lucky enough to partner up with Brandon and Nalani Smith and open up SA Roofing.
Brandon has been a business owner since 2009. The grind of business ownership is something Brandon and Nalani have balanced throughout their entire relationship. Nalani even worked for him at one point when they were dating. They both grew up in homes of entrepreneurs as well. Brandon has worked in the construction industry for the last 10+ years. Nalani worked to put herself through college and worked with her Dad a few times on side jobs, but spent most of her time working at her father-in-law’s advertising agency. He has a strict ‘no hire family/close friends’ policy, but somehow ended up there not once, but twice.
Don’t take things personally.
Since my father-in-law was so determined to not have family involved in his business, I made sure to keep a big separation between professional and personal life. This gave me the chance to practice a lifelong skill of not taking things personally. It taught me to compartmentalize and see an issue objectively. Of course sometimes in the heat of the moment, emotions can get in the way, but having the ability to step back and re-visit an issue without taking the conflict personally is my piece of advice for others. There are times, when it is a family-run business, that keeping the personal connection will most definitely help instead of hinder but knowing when it applies and who you are working with is very helpful.
Lead with trust.
Trust your family, trust your employees. Treat your employees like part of the family. Sometimes you may run into disagreements and between feelings, emotions, employees and family members stories can get messy or sometimes misunderstood. If you run into communication troubles take a moment to gather details and both sides of the story before jumping to conclusions or taking any actions. Make sure everyone feels included and heard. You never want to alienate an employee from the family and you don’t want to put down a family member. That can cause trust to be lost or broken and it’s hard to get back.
Setting boundaries for a healthy family relationship is important. Know when you need to turn off talking about work. Do you need to set a certain time in the evening when you no longer discuss work? For us, especially since we work from home a lot of the time, we need to be careful not to make our entire day and evening about work. Sometimes we have late nights, but we work hard to not make it a habit. Our family time is important to us and we want to make that a priority.
Part of setting boundaries means asking if you should work together. Not all couples, siblings, parent/children should work together. If you decide to work together, establish a limit. At what point does someone walk away or exit the company? Kendall and I have both said that one of us will leave the business if it starts to cause harm to our marriage and family.
Evaluate if you should be in business with family.
Running a family business is hard and things can get complicated very quickly. Some relationships are not in a place where they can handle this kind of strain. Some members don't have the same drive or passion and that can cause tension as well. Some personalities don't work well together. Take an objective look at who you are going into business with and what each person’s roles will be and weigh the pros and cons. For the four of us it works, however, we work very hard to make sure we are keeping honest communication open and are constantly reevaluating to make sure we are always keeping the best foot forward.
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