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Siblings as Business Partners

It may be hard to believe that the sibling who wore your clothes without permission, tattled on you mercilessly and took tantrum throwing to new heights, could one day be the person you trust most with your business matters. For some siblings, transitioning from children to adults to business associates is a smooth process. However, for others, even those without deep seeded sibling rivalries, a business relationship may prove to be extremely difficult.

Fortunately, sisters Suni Spencer and Deidre Graybill represent siblings in the former category. They are co-owners of Loose Ends Salon, a hair and beauty salon located in the heart of Orlando, Florida. For the two of them, going into business together was a natural progression in their healthy sibling relationship. Although Deidre is the oldest of five sisters and Suni is next to the youngest, the sisters have been compatible business associates for years.

With a ten year difference in age and a big gap in their birth order, how do they make it work? According to their experience, here are the top three requirements for a successful business relationship with your sibling:

1) Honesty – As in most relationships, honesty plays a key role in the relationship of siblings in business together. With honesty, siblings can build trust, which has to be a strong foundation in the partnership. Although, honesty can be easy when everything is going right, the true test comes when mistakes are made or personal and monetary sacrifices are required.

“If you can’t be honest,” Deidre says, “it can tear [the business] down like a hurricane.”

2) Respect- Another crucial element in successful relationships (business and personal) is respect. The youngest sibling may have always been summarily dismissed while growing up, but in the business arena, each sibling’s opinion should be heard. If blatant disrespect of a sibling due to birth order or past rivalries cannot be overcome, then perhaps a business relationship of any kind should be completely avoided.

3) Business Roles - Because of the history within the siblings’ household, it may be easy to assume those same roles within the business. However, business roles should be based on the strengths of the individual. Many firstborns may find it difficult to relinquish control since being in charge has always been their role as the oldest sibling. However, that’s where honesty and respect should take over. The best approach for success it to take an earnest examination of each sibling’s abilities, correlate it with a business position and then trust that the most qualified sibling will handle the job. If adjustments are necessary, they should be done according to what's in the best interest of the business – not the siblings' personal relationship or egos. If the sibling relationship becomes too difficult in the midst of business matters, perhaps a third party intervention is required.

Unfortunately, perhaps the best business advice for some siblings is not to go into business together in the first place. Attempting to overcome past relationship issues and dealing with the pressures of a business is not the best combination for success. In addition, without a strong sibling relationship to build upon, the creation of a business affiliation could add undue tension on the entire family.

In the case of the two sisters in Orlando, both agree that their professional partnership is easier because they are also friends. When asked about the strength of their sibling connection, Deidre thinks for a moment and then tries to explain their bond.

“If I needed a rock,” she says, creating a fist to emphasize her point, “If I really needed a rock, I would call Suni.”

“And vice versa,” Suni chimes in while styling the hair of a patron. “Vice versa.”

They both also agreed that while respect, trust and honesty are expected when they work together, such values are also expected in their normal sibling relationship. Of course for some siblings, those expectations are a lot easier said than done.

Loose Ends Salon Inc


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