Is your family business missing a mediator?

Why a business mentor could be the answer

Are you familiar with the story behind the Black Sheep Brewery?

It was founded by Paul Theakston, a fifth-generation brewer, who walked away from the family business to start his own because he disagreed with some of the family decisions. Both breweries still make fantastic Yorkshire beers to this day.

Maybe you’ve heard the tale of the two Dassler brothers who started a sports shoe company. After a disagreement, they decided to part ways. One brother went on to found Puma, while the other founded Adidas. Both have gone on to be successful brands.

Many people think family businesses fail because one person isn’t pulling their weight or doesn’t have a passion for the industry. But as the examples above show, that isn’t always the case.

Family businesses can come apart simply because the owners have different visions or a difference of opinions.

Is it a mistake to go into business with a family member?

Of course not.

I can list endless examples of family-run small businesses that are hugely successful and highly profitable.

But that doesn’t mean you should rush to set up a business with your spouse, parent, offspring, or siblings.

Because, just like with any business, you need to build the right team with the right balance of skills.

Which means don’t just appoint your son as Marketing Director because he ‘knows how to do Instagram’.

Recognise the extra challenges of working with family

While sharing the same family values can be the reason a family business thrives, sharing flaws can be a reason it fails. Being too similar in personality can be just as challenging as being too different. As I mentioned above, a successful business requires the right skills.

Of course, it’s not only family businesses that suffer with this. Friends that go into business together can have similar problems.

And even when business partners have no emotional links, the business will still suffer if there isn’t a balance of skills and personalities, and a shared vision.

But the problem with family is that, well, they’re family. Try as you might to establish a professional distance at work, you’ll probably say things to family members that you wouldn’t say to your non-related employees or partners.

Even the most professional amongst us struggle to remain completely impartial when it comes to dealing with family. Past irritations, ongoing frustrations and personal differences can cloud our judgement, and it’s hard not to let these things creep into the boardroom.

Of course when family is involved, emotions are heightened and it is often the case that being challenged become less about a professional work issue and more about a personal one.

There is a further dimension to consider.

Add into the equation where the next generation is introduced to the business, there can be a difference in vision and expectations.  Perhaps the off-spring don’t share the same entrepreneurial approach of their parental founders and the business can lose momentum.  Or perhaps the founders have become comfortable and less risky as they age and the new kids on the block are frustrated by the lack of speed and ambition.

That’s why having an outside perspective can prove invaluable.

How does a business mentor help?

I can’t speak for all Business Mentors, but I can speak for me.

Providing that outside perspective is how I help – by taking an objective view, removing emotion from the equation, and focusing on your business goals and developing a common vision.

I help you identify the missing pieces and align the differences in approach so you can build a stronger and a more profitable business.

I’m not there to take sides in family feuds or provide counselling sessions; I’m there to help you work together to achieve that shared vision (once we’ve worked out what that is).

Refer to me as a business mentor, coach, mediator, non-exec director – I don’t really care how it’s labelled – I only care about helping you get sustainable results.

So, if you run a business with family members or you are considering bringing a family member into your company, send me a direct message. Together, we’ll figure out how to build a business that offers you and all of your family the freedom to choose.


Developing a dream team is one of the essential building blocks to running a successful business. If you are working too many hours or are frustrated about any element of your team, it’s time to take action. Access our tool here to get started: