Our family has always supported each other’s passions, but I’m not sure any of us knew we’d be running a business together for over a decade. It’s been an amazing journey. I’d started a few small businesses, or “hobbies gone wild,” prior to 2009. Around then, my mother and I would travel to Idaho to assist my sister, Jen, with the production and sale of her healing salves. She was pulling double or triple duty working as a midwife in addition to finishing her herbalist certification. At first, the products reached local customers and visitors to the farmers’ markets, but it didn’t take long for us to realize there was a bigger appetite for cleaner, more natural skin and body care products – not to mention the salves my sister created by hand worked better than anything I’d tried!
It all changed for us when a national food chain store requested a large order that required more assets than we’d been used to. My mother’s digital design expertise came to the fore, I lent my business experience, and our respective significant others and close friends did all they could to help our little passion project achieve liftoff. Our family has grown and our methods of working together have only been enhanced by an influx of new voices and experiences. We’ve learned so much throughout the years and a lot has changed, but the basics of working with my family has remained the same.
Remember you are on the same team, and communicate.
Sometimes it doesn’t feel like your family member is on your team, oftentimes it feels like the exact opposite. They are seemingly throwing roadblock after roadblock in front of you. But just wait, because if your family is truly there to win it with you, they are not blocking you, they are challenging you. We need to challenge each other every day and remember we are on the same team. If we simply agreed all the time, we would not be able to grow our business. So communicate, don’t feel like you have to acquiesce, but be polite, dang it. There is no time for the clean up of malice games. You are on the same team, so go kick ass together.
Be specific with each of your roles, and play fair.
Often a family starts the business together and you wear a lot of hats, which is great. That will help the business to be financially creative, resourceful and get the job done. But we learned early on, if you don’t give each other specific roles or positions within the company, expectations can get mudd, which often leads to unnecessary miscommunications and even feelings being hurt. People like to own their roles and own it with confidence. Give each other a territory to own and do it well with the same expectations and rules you would apply to any employee. We always know we have each other’s backs, but then you can shine without feeling like a family member is micromanaging you and the expectations are clear. As well, this will help your employees also feel like you are not giving your family special privileges. We all play by the same rules.
Take extra time to process and share bigger picture information.
As much as we have our own lanes and positions within the company, at the end of the day, we are also partners and this is everyone’s investment. Each partner and co-founder needs to have a birds-eye view of the company. Take time to discover ways of delivering efficient information so your family members don’t feel siloed, they have a voice and are well informed on the state of the business.
That leads me to having boundaries. Almost contradictory to the above statement, however, this is more sensitive to roles and information. First, as family, you know what makes your sister or mother or husband flip. It is not professional or acceptable to play that card at work. It not only hurts the relationship, but it damages the communication with your team members. Second, not all family members want to talk business all hours of the day and night. So being sensitive to each other’s “work hours” and timing for business exchange is key.
Have fun, and never give up on each other!
Never forget, life is a gift and being an entrepreneur is a choice. We make the choice every day to do this, and it is an incredible opportunity, so have fun. Nobody said it was going to be easy, but that’s life. Every job will have its challenges, but we get to build something that is making a difference in people’s lives and do it together, with the people we love and adore most in life. And I think this has served me well when hiring our team members. We all count, and those relationships make a difference on a daily basis. So yes, there are going to be tough days. But have fun, and never give up on each other. In the end, your family, and your extended work family, is what matters most.
This will be a tough fight. It’s often highlighted that a very small percentage of all businesses survive, and an even smaller percentage of those businesses are women-owned. Then COVID-19 happened; I am sure those statistics are now even more grim. Your family is everything, they know you and you know them. Go back to what you learned at a young age: the Golden Rule. Treat others as you wish to be treated. It’s sometimes hard with family because you feel like you have the right to treat them differently, but your family deserves better. Your entire team deserves better. You are in this fight together, and you are all better together.
Jodi Scott is the CEO of Sierra Sage Herbs LLC, makers of all-natural skin and body care brands Green Goo and Good Goo. She is also a co-founder, a title shared with her sister, Jen, and their mother, Kathy. Jodi studied pre-med with an MS in Health Psychology, aiming to bridge the mind, body, and medicine as tools for healthier lives. She also worked in a private practice of her own, helping the chronically ill, sufferers of traumatic brain injury, and impoverished patients. Between passions for socially responsible medicine, the advancement of traditional medical perspectives, and creating and owning several small businesses, Jodi witnessed the life-changing power of her herbalist sister’s medicine from plants. With an ingrained knack for social enterprise, Jodi and the Scotts embarked on a journey to use plants with purpose to change the world.