Nepotism has long been a feature in old, legacy heavy law firms and banks. While at newspapers, it’s not uncommon to see the editor’s son land a cushy reporting job interviewing some of the biggest names in the business after a week on the desk.
Nepotism is alive and kicking, but what about reverse nepotism? When a business or tech start-up is doing well, it can be easy to get carried away with growing the business. Yet, employing core skills which help to ground the business can be essential to continue growing.
Entrepreneurs are starting to realise the value their parents and grandparents can bring to their venture, so are employing them to help boost their business. Businesses are thriving because they’re tapping into skills commonly used by the older generation.
Christian Mancier, Partner and Head of the Gorvins Family Business Team explains how the key to any start-up family business is to ensure the parties involved document at the outset how they intend to operate going forward. "This will inevitably involve some difficult conversations around what happens if someone dies or is seriously ill or if there is a falling out but it is best to get those discussions out of the way and document those decisions at the outset whilst everyone is enthused, pulling in the same direction and the business has a negligible value."
Alex Bargate is one such entrepreneur who decided working with his father was better than not. His company, Ajuve, is an online arbitration platform - he feels his dad has a lot to teach about running a business as he built his own successful law firm.
"Having been involved with a couple of start-ups and been immersed in the entrepreneurial lifestyle and community, I have certainly picked up some useful knowledge on the early days of getting a business off the ground that I can bring to the table. It’s give and take, and what works well is that our differing skills and knowledge complement each other."
There are plenty of benefits to working with ones father. Bargate reflected that he had a business idea to do some online dispute resolution, and the pair had the perfect blend of skills to make things happen. "It wasn’t so much a deliberate move to start a family business as much as it just being the obvious way forward with our idea. I think with any business you need to start with the concept and the aim, and then bring in the right skills to make it happen."
Knowing one another can also happen be of benefit to a small business. "It can be a real advantage in difficult and stressful business situations. We have such a good idea of how each other thinks and how we can work together, which makes resolving challenges that bit easier."
Working with a family member didn’t come without challenges however. Bargate recommends making sure you maintain a relationship outside the business too. "Working on a start-up, the days are long and the business is always on your mind – when you’re in this boat with family members it’s easy for that tendency to be exacerbated even further."
For Kubi Springer, her mother has been instrumental to her business success. She taught Kubi that "everybody should flip the burgers in the same way,'" meaning that everyone at Kubi's company SheBuildsBrands should do their roles precisely. She explains how her mother helped her develop systems, and organisational processes to ensure that the business runs in a watertight way, from the point that they take on a new client, to when the contract ends.
Alix Amundson is in the process of setting up her own photography business, but knew she needed more than just a keen eye for photography to make her business work. "I have the contacts I need in my industry, but I’m relying on my mum for her business sense. She ran a florists for a decade, so her day to day business skills are very strong."
She explained that when her mum retired she knew she was bored and needed more stimulation. "It was a situation we could both benefit from, so I asked her if she’d like a new job - part time of course. I’ve not got the business up and running yet, but we’re getting there."
"Getting her involved has definitely made us closer as a family, plus, her skills complement mine and I’m confident we’re going to succeed well together."
Keeping things within the family may sound like a strain, but the reality can be much different. Utilise parents resources, and in turn, provide them with a stimulating, young, fresh working environment. Rather than family strain, it sounds like it could result in a business-marriage made in heaven.