The pros and cons of running a business with your brother

Today we sit down for a chat with the brothers behind Carfinance247, Louis and Reg Rix, to find out what life is like working so closely with your sibling. The business is performing strongly, having recently been featured in the Fast Track 100 list, but how much of this is down to their family ties?

Who came up with the idea for the business and was it always clear you and two would work together?

Neither of us came up with the idea, we fell into the industry. Reg initially set up Netcars (a car classified website) when he left school and customers visiting that website were also enquiring about finance. We spotted a gap in the market which ultimately led us into the online finance business. In particular, we quickly recognised the difficulties customers who were coming online were having in locating the right financing solution. There was no light bulb moment, more of a natural progression into a new sector.

Reg is 18 months older than me. We are from a big family of five children – we also have two younger brothers and a younger sister. Growing up & still to this day we’re very close, perhaps because mum was busy with the younger ones and because of the small age gap, Reg and I always did everything together. Our relationship has always been close and this naturally grew into a working relationship when we left school.

How have you found the experience of running a business together?

A lot of people ask that and I think if there had been any sibling rivalry it would have been hard for us to work together. In short it’s great fun, we have minor disagreements, but I can honestly say we complement each other very well.

Going to work for our dad at an early age made us both very entrepreneurial. We’re both driven and our thoughts on where we want to take the business are very much aligned, but in terms of day to day running of the business we have very different roles.

Reg focuses more on sales, process and strategy. I’m more focused on marketing, accounts and compliance - we’ve different interests and skillsets, so that’s why it works.

Having said that, we know we want to grow Carfinance247 into a huge business - we both have a clear goal and a strategy in place to execute our plans.  

Did you both want to follow your father and grandfather into the motor industry?

Supplying finance means we’re in a different space but still in the automotive industry which is what we grew up with. It’s all we heard our dad talk about when we were young, so we understand the industry; that gave us a head start. We learnt a huge amount 'on the job' at our father's car dealership and other ventures, and built a wealth of knowledge that we leveraged when we saw the gap in the market for online car finance.

That’s a difficult one to answer. We know each other like the backs of our hands, but I suppose subconsciously we’re constantly learning about one another and improving that bond. We trust each other wholeheartedly. We’ve spent more time together than anyone else in our lives so we fully understand how each other ticks.

Does working at Carfinance247 feel like being part of a family for the other members of staff, do you think? 

I’d like to think so, yes. We have very open communications between management and employees. We’re very clear in terms of direction and we try to ensure that everyone feels part of the success of the business. I guess the challenge is to keep that mentality going and we’re doing our best to do so.

What are the pros of working with your sibling?

We’ve always worked together so it’s become 'normal' for us. I think we’d find it difficult to work with or for anyone else!

The biggest pro is trust. We’re able to make decisions on each other’s behalf and there’s always comfort knowing there’s someone in your corner. If either of us had set up the business on our own then one person would have all of the pressure, so it’s good to have the reassurance that we’re in it together.

What are the cons of working with your sibling?

This is a difficult question because we do work very well together but I’d have to say that it is difficult to switch off from work. Even in downtime, at family or friends’ social events, or if we talk in the evenings, work is always a topic because we’re so close to the business.

Would you recommend others starting up a family business?

We’re lucky because it just works for us. I think as relatives, you’ve either got the bond or you haven’t. A lot of people say to me, "I could never work with my brother or sister", so you need that natural gel to go into business together. For us, it’s been important to stand on an equal footing so the question of control never arises.

If the spark is there then my advice would be to make sure that the roles within the business are clearly defined and you don’t tread on one another’s toes. It helps to have a clear goal in mind and to be honest about what you want to get out of the business – you need a shared vision.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

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