Many garage businesses are family owned enterprises. Some have even been in families for generations.

But sometimes, whilst employing family members can appear to be an easy solution, it carries its own set of distinct problems, certainly if not handled well.

Avidan Milevsky, associate professor of psychology at Ariel University and executive director of the Family Institute in Israel, points out that sibling dynamics can easily make or break a family business, and matters involving money are notorious for cultivating destructive sibling dynamics.

Here’s how a couple handled it:

Alison Gutterman, is President and CEO of Jelmar Gutterman Cleaning Products. When she began working at Jelmar, she did so without a title or even a desk. Instead of being given these things because she was her father’s daughter, she had to earn them.


She explains, “My father and I have very different personalities and come from different generations. He felt that I had to overtake him to take over the family business, and while I am competitive, I am not that competitive. I believed and believe today that the reason I was ready for additional leadership roles, leading to this one, was because I earned them.”


After working her way into management, Gutterman was able to build upon the foundation her father built, modernising the business to include more technology and data.


She says the family and small-business dynamic of the company has meant less red tape and more room to take innovative risks.


Gutterman also suggests finding a mentor outside of your company who can provide a different perspective

Steve Fleming, Co-CEO of Kick4Life F.C. says a shared vision was crucial for himself and his brother Pete, who co-founded Kick4Life, a professional soccer club. Given the variety Kick4Life has incorporated into its operations — including charitable projects, a restaurant, and a football club — Steve believes that the brothers’ shared vision has been key to their success.

He observes, “challenges have come when we have had different ideas about the direction of the organisation, and it has been necessary to work through these to ensure our ideas are aligned. It has also helped to have clearly defined roles and responsibilities, and for us to respectively focus on our different strengths, which have complemented each other.”


Fleming says regular communication has been imperative as well, noting that it’s important to bring up concerns early on before they develop into a more serious issue or contention.

Hiring relatives or partnering with a family member in a business venture isn’t a decision to take lightly. It can quickly blur the lines between personal time and work hours, and it can also make it harder to enforce a chain of authority.

But, given the right family dynamics, it offers numerous advantages: a greater degree of trust and honesty, the reliability of someone who’s invested in his or her own success and yours, and a close bond that can survive the wild ups and downs often associated with running a business.

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