Starting a business with your relatives may sound tempting but it’s important to maintain a healthy division between the personal and the professional
Finding kindred spirits with whom to launch a business is just as important for franchisees as it is for everyday entrepreneurs. Yet, locating motivated like-minded individuals to propel ventures toward commercial success can be tricky. Not only do business partners have to be trustworthy but they also need to share the same vision and drive.
As such, it’s hardly surprising that the percentage of married franchising teams in the UK has remained steady at about 21% for several years, according to statistics from the bfa and NatWest. But you don’t have to work with your spouse to keep a franchise in the family. Joining forces with siblings, parents and children can prove just as, or even more, beneficial.
Not only does working with a brother, daughter or father mean working with someone you trust, it can also be easier to separate one’s personal and professional lives than it would be if you worked with a spouse. However, despite the clear benefits of joining forces with a familiar face, budding entrepreneurs are advised to think long and hard before asking family members to become their business partner. The last thing anyone wants is to permanently damage a special relationship. Thankfully, there are numerous stories of business owners who have successfully kept their franchises a family affair.
Few can brag about still being in their teens when launching their first business but Samie Razaq is one of them. He was only 17 when he set up his first CeX franchise store with his two brothers Eamonn and Omar, who were respectively 20 and 21 at the time. “We always planned on going into business together and, upon Omar leaving university, we decided not to wait any longer,” explains Razaq. “I left school against everyone’s better judgement because I didn’t want them to get started without me.”
Six years, three CeX stores and an Anytime Fitness franchise later, it is clear that the gamble paid off. “Although that’s not to say it has all been smooth sailing,” says Razaq. “We have our disagreements like any brothers and colleagues do.”
In order to reach a quick resolution, the Razaqs make a point of talking openly amongst themselves when they disagree about something. It also prevents customers getting an inkling of any unrest. “I would advise projecting a united front outwardly to the business world, no matter what disagreements may be happening behind closed doors,” says Razaq.
Another advantage of resolving these issues during office hours is that it nullifies the impact on the Razaqs’ personal lives. But, despite their best efforts, the three brothers do occasionally fail to keep the topic of work confined to business hours, to the chagrin of the rest of the Razaq family. “We often end up talking shop at family dinners,” says Razaq. “Mostly, our other family members look a bit bored or just tell us to shut up.”
Yet one topic the brothers didn’t leave unspoken when launching their first store was what roles and responsibilities they should all have. This is something that other franchisees considering going into business with family members are well-advised to keep in mind. “It’s really important that all business partners are equal in their authority, regardless of age and experience,” advises Razaq.
With the three brothers planning to open a fourth CeX store soon, it’s evident the trust and transparency between them has proved a recipe for success. “The Razaqs always have something exciting in the pipeline,” he concludes.
Mark Edmans, co-owner of Dream Doors Chilterns, didn’t leave anything to chance when he got into franchising. Just as he did his research before deciding that Dream Doors was the company for him, he also selected his business partner with the same level of care. Six years later, he and his sister Amanda are still successfully running their Chesham-based kitchen-makeover company.
Part of this success comes down to Edmans being able to trust his sister with confidential information. He believes this is a benefit shared by other franchisees who work with fellow family members. “You already know them on a personal level, so it’s less of a risk,” he argues.
This trust extends beyond having faith that family members won’t spill the beans to outsiders. “Obviously, they are more likely to go that extra mile because they’re a family member and [not] just someone you’ve employed,” says Edmans.
However, while franchisees that are couples benefit from similar advantages, Edmans argues that those working with other family members enjoy benefits that married ones don’t. “It is very difficult to arrange vacations as husband and wife teams always want the same time off,” says Edmans. Needless to say, he and his sister don’t face the same issue. “That’s a big bonus,” he adds.
While married couples undoubtedly run successful franchises, they may find it harder to leave work at the door after a long day at the office, making the separation of family and franchise more difficult. “You can avoid that with a sibling or a parent, unless you’re living under the same roof,” says Edmans.
Edmans advises other prospective franchisees thinking about going into business with their families to consider what skill sets their siblings, parents or children possess. “If they’ve got the right skill set for the business then working with a family member is the best scenario,” he concludes.
A slice of family life
Shakeel Jivraj never hesitated before joining his father and brother as a Pizza Hut Delivery franchisee. “My dad has always been in business with his family,” says Jivraj. “In the 1980s, he worked with his own father and brother, just like I am doing now.”
Although Jivraj started working together with his family after graduating from university, he still remembers the steep learning curve that he faced when setting up shop with his dad. “I had to make sure I listened to the advice my father gave me and adjusted to our new working relationship,” he says.
While it took him some time to adjust to the fact that his father was the boss at work, Jivraj learned to stay in line, at least most of the time. “Of course there are always small debates between us but we resolve them professionally,” he says.
Jivraj advises franchisees thinking about launching enterprises with family members to have patience when establishing their new roles within the company. “It can take time to adjust but it will be worth it in the long term,” he says.
By allowing themselves time, the Jivraj family has not only been able to overcome difficulties at work but also to improve their private relationships. “We have definitely become closer as a result of our working relationship,” says Jivraj. “That unconditional love between father and son has been strengthened.”
That closeness has also helped them become better at running the franchise. “We know each other really well so it is easy to play off each other’s strengths,” says Jivraj. Today they run 15 franchises in London, as well as five across Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.
Ultimately, while the initial learning curve seemed daunting, Jivraj wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world. “I love working with my family members,” he concludes.