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learn the secrets of successfully working with your family

Working With Your Family? 11 Secrets Every Entrepreneur Should Know

Here at MemberMouse we work with thousands of online entrepreneurs and business owners. Through the years of working with them and our own direct experience, we know that building a successful online business is not easy.

Ok… that might be a bit of an understatement. It can be downright TOUGH at times.

(Raise your hand if you can relate! 🙋)

And if it weren’t already hard enough to start and grow a thriving business, there is one thing that can make it all the more difficult: doing it alone, by yourself, in isolation.

The weight of getting your business off the ground can feel twice as heavy when you have no one to bounce ideas off of, collaborate with, or split up the myriad of little tasks required at every stage of building your business.

It should come as no surprise then that many entrepreneurs choose to work closely with a partner to grow their businesses. One person handles the tech side of things, the other handles content creation and marketing — you get the idea. But what is surprising is that these partners are oftentimes close family members: spouses, siblings, and parents.

Now, if you don’t already work with your family you might think this is a bad idea. How can you expect to negotiate business tasks when you’re still fighting over who’s going to do the laundry and wash the dishes? Yet, it seems that those who find a way to balance and blend their personal relationships with business ones are able to achieve a great deal of success.

We’ve seen this trend among our own customers and community members and thought it would be fun and interesting to shine a light on this topic and discover what it takes to succeed in life and business as a family. So, we asked those we know who have successfully navigated these waters this question:

“What is your secret to a successful working relationship with your family?”

We received some incredible responses and are excited to share them with you in this post.
 
learn the secrets of working with your family
 

Appreciate Each Other’s Strengths & Weaknesses

membership entrepreneur neely quinnNeely Quinn is an online entrepreneur, long-term MemberMouse customer, and the founder of TrainingBeta – a membership site dedicated to providing training programs, nutrition consulting, and education resources for rock climbers and boulderers.

Neely and her husband Seth worked very closely on TrainingBeta in the early stage of the business. Interestingly, they learned that they don’t actually work very well together and found doing so wasn’t the best thing for the dynamics of their relationship. Still, Neely had some great insights into how to divide up responsibilities based upon the strengths of each partner. This is what she had to say:

“Seth and I don’t work super closely on TrainingBeta anymore – partly because we actually don’t work very well together, haha! But we do sometimes still work on the business together. We actually just had a day-long brainstorming session the other day. There were definitely some arguments that occurred, but we also made a lot of progress.

Seth and I both respect and appreciate each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and try to trust each other on things we don’t know about. For instance, Seth is the programmer and I’m in charge of managing employees, marketing, and outreach.

I don’t know anything about programming, so I let him take the lead on that. And he isn’t great with marketing and outreach, so he’s learned to trust my instincts on that, even when they don’t line up with his own. With this mutual respect, we both sort of take turns being the leader and the follower with each other, which balances out the power.”

Neely has actually been a guest on our podcast twice! If you’d like to hear more from her and learn how she grew her online membership business, you can check out her episodes here: How To Build A Thriving Community That Converts & What No One Tells You About Growing A Membership Site.

Establish Trust, Boundaries, & Honesty

subscription entrepreneur Talia KorenTalia Koren is an up-and-coming entrepreneur and the brains behind Workweek Lunch – an online subscription business that teaches its members everything they need to know about meal prepping. She recently joined us on the podcast to share how she grew her business from zero to more than 2,500 paying members in a little over a year.

Talia has worked with just about everyone in her family and has even shared these comical insights on Twitter:


Here’s the advice she has to offer about maintaining a successful working relationship with her partner:

“I’ve worked closely with my mom, brother and partner with varying levels of success (and luckily no major blowouts).

Here’s my secret:

When you tack on a business relationship to an already strong romantic relationship, chances are it will work out if you’ve already established trust, boundaries and have the ability to work through problems without being dramatic.

My partner and I live together and have worked on a handful of projects for my business, Workweek Lunch, on a paid and pro-bono basis depending on the project (and what stages of life we’re in!).

It’s probably not surprising to hear that the more honest and open we were about the scope, compensation, timeline, quality of the work etc., the better the process was for both of us. I love working with him – he’s the only person I trust to work on certain projects, so it’s been amazing!”

Avoid “Band-Aid” Solutions

veteran membermouse web developers ryan and cathi murray of 3200 creativeRyan and Cathi Murray are the dynamic duo behind 3200 Creative. They’re a design and development firm and have built a number of successful membership sites over the years. As a husband and wife team, they work very closely together and have learned the importance of sharing in all aspects of their partnership. Ryan shares his main takeaways here:

“In our partnership of 14+ years we have educated each other on an ongoing basis. If one of us learns something, we teach it to the other. We share leadership roles and delegate tasks based on our natural skillsets. If there is a problem, we don’t fight; we discuss until there is a mutual understanding. Occasionally it takes time, but it’s worth it because that problem is solved. We avoid ‘band-aid’ solutions.

We allow each other to interrupt whenever needed. If either of us is stuck, we stop the presses and figure it out together. If one of us is frustrated, typically the other isn’t and can lend a hand or an ear. Plus, we always play music while we work and take occasional breaks for a dance-off.”

If you’d like to hear more from Ryan, check out this informative podcast episode we recorded with him: Proven SEO & Web Optimization Tips.
 
recharge with intentional alone time
 

Prioritize Alone Time

melissa and gregory from the membermouse teamMelissa McConnell and Gregory Meredith work on our customer relationships team here at MemberMouse! Since we’re a remote company, they work very closely together. They both share thoughts about balancing and prioritizing your needs as an individual:

“Funny enough, I often find myself in situations working with my partner,” Melissa says. “It seems we do well as a duo, bouncing ideas off of each other and dividing up different tasks to fit both of our strengths. I’d say the biggest challenge of working with my partner is the balance of alone time. Because we work together from home, we often find that we are together 24/7, and after a while it is important to have some variety so to say.

Prioritizing solo outings, such as a long walk alone in the forest, or an afternoon tea visit with a friend, makes a world of a difference. Sometimes one of us may take our work into town to be solo in a coffee shop, while the other one stays at home. We try to plan frequent solo journeys out of town to keep the balance. In a way, solid relationship advice applies to working with a partner as well.

Balance and variety is the key. That way, you can keep the energy fresh and continue to strengthen the beneficial aspects of being a working team together. Teamwork makes the dream work as they say, and if balance is maintained, working with a partner can be a big creative blessing.”

“Speaking for myself, I especially find that cultivating a practice of creating space for myself to have “alone time” is key to the process of working together,” Gregory adds. “Melissa and I love spending time together, and we also work well together. In that spirit of working together, we have found that we also must work together to help each other feel free to do what we both need to do on an individual level to thrive. Working with your partner is a huge blessing, especially when approached with reverence of each other’s sovereignty.”

Know The Value Of Great Communication

online entrepreneur kirk duplessis“My best advice is to have great communication,” says Kirk DuPlessis – long-term MemberMouse customer and the brains behind OptionAlpha – a membership site that delivers world-class education to its members about options trading. Entrepreneurship must run in the family because his wife Emily also runs a membership site called Rental Rookie. She teaches her members how to buy their first investment property and move towards financial independence.

membership site owner emily du plessisKirk continues, “With three kids and both of us at home all day it’s important to communicate often about the schedule and priorities for each other. Although we try to create consistent routines, sometimes life changes and schedules get switched around. This means we need to talk with each other and be flexible enough to help each other and make time for family, work, and life.”

Spend Time Together Outside Of Work

Over the past decade, Miles and Melanie have worked tirelessly to grow Melanie’s business Ask-Angels.com. What’s crazy is that they started this business after scraping together $95.40 and built it into what it is today out of blood, sweat, and tears. Miles shared the entire story with us on the podcast earlier this year. You will definitely want to check out this episode here.

After achieving success with Melanie’s online business, Miles started a new venture and turned his attention to becoming the world’s most helpful internet marketer. He took everything he learned from his journey of building a profitable online business, and began sharing it on YouTube and his website.

These two know A LOT about cultivating a harmonious working and personal relationship and shares these amazing gems here:

miles beckler online entrepreneur and business ownerMiles shares, “For me, the #1 thing is to have clearly defined roles, tasks and goals. Then to give the other person total autonomy to achieve their goals/accomplish their tasks however they see fit. As long as it gets done, even if it is a VERY different approach than how I’d do it, all that matters is it gets done.

Although I didn’t have any ‘classical’ training I took on the tech side of the business and my wife took on the talent/content creation side. Every successful business online needs both creative content and smooth-running highly-optimized tech.

We took the ‘divide and conquer’ approach to our marketing strategy and we each gave the other the freedom to figure things out on our own while being there to help when asked. I stayed in my lane and allowed her the freedom to stay in hers and together we made a TON of progress this way.”

founder of online business ask angels melanie beckler“My advice is to spend time together outside of working,” Melanie adds. “Having a loving relationship and a building successful business together can be an incredible mix… But it’s important to spend time together outside of working to just enjoy each other’s company too. We love to hike together, work out, meditate, paddle board, snowboard, swim, garden, and more.

Every day we schedule in doing something together other than just working. Oftentimes that takes the form of three short 30-minute breaks to “get away” from our laptops and phones, and recharge together out in nature, or with a meditation.

We don’t have any “rules” about not talking about business during these times (except mid-meditation), and often our hikes turn into masterminding or we just have great ideas and solutions that pop into our heads, but that isn’t the goal…

The goal is to simply have fun together and enjoy our relationship. Building an online business together is by nature a never-ending series of problems, challenges and work. It’s important to mix in having fun and just enjoying life and each other too!”
 
work together as a team
 

10 Lessons From 12 Years Of Partnership

amanda northcutt the subscription coachFor years, Amanda and Travis have worked together on a variety of online endeavors. Amanda is one of the foremost experts on launching, growing, and scaling online subscription based businesses. She’s worked in the online subscription & membership space since 2006 and her latest venture is SubscriptionCoach.com. She joined us on the podcast earlier this year to talk about how online business owners can master recurring revenue.
membership site development expert travis northcutt
In terms of building a successful relationship and business with your partner, Amanda shares these 10 tips that are so perfect you just want to print them out and hang them on your refrigerator.

“We’d offer essentially the same advice if someone asked about the success of our 12+ year marriage:

#1 Be nice

Meaning, the kind of nice that you are toward friends. You’re on the same team, act like it. This aligns well with my all-time favorite rule, that I so wish everyone would follow: don’t be an asshole.

#2 Set boundaries and stick to them

This means no shop talk in the bedroom or during certain hours or weekends.

#3 Be for each other’s success, not competitive
#4 Don’t try to fit a square peg in a round hole

For a long time, Travis was in business roles that he wasn’t well suited for from an aptitude perspective, nor did he enjoy them, but they had to get done nonetheless. We’ve shifted responsibilities, outsourced to SaaS tools and VAs as necessary, and now he’s truly happy and enjoys his work. Knowing your partner’s strengths and helping them maximize them will make life so much better, in and out of the office.

#5 Be your partner’s biggest cheerleader & supporter
#6 Take mental health seriously and make it a very high priority

If your partner is experiencing burnout or needs to shift gears, find a way to make it happen. Additionally, seek professional mental health help, before it feels like an emergency. We’ve both done counseling/therapy at various times for the entirety of our marriage, and that’s been a critical component of having a healthy relationship, and of each of us being mentally healthy individually.

#7 The relationship comes first, period

Have close friends hold you accountable to this. No amount of money or success is worth destroying our family. We’d rather be poor with each other, than rich and divorced. Fortunately, we’re rocking along just fine, but that’s because we work our asses off at our marriage.

#8 Don’t interrupt
#9 Share the load

We’ve never subscribed to traditional gender roles and never will. We share these things equitably and when one partner is busier with work than the other, the other picks up the slack around the house and with our son. A turning point for us came several years ago when I was able to express to Travis (who was already a great partner, but like I said, this is an iterative process), that we are both “on” from the time our son wakes up to the time he goes to sleep. We both help him get out the door to school. We both cook and shop. We both do kid bedtime. We both do chores. No one is “off” for the night until our son is asleep. This is what equity looks like in our marriage and in our business. When our marriage and household are in order, the business feels like a breeze.

#10 Put your partners needs before your own

When you maintain a posture of being “for” the other, and put their needs before your own (obviously both parties have to be on board 100% here), everything falls into place, even when the world seems to be crumbling around you.”

 
Can you tell that Amanda loves lists? Speaking of which, Amanda actually wrote a 3 part series on how you can boost profits, increase efficiency, and create smart systems for your membership site. If you could use a little help in any of those areas, we’d highly recommend reading those articles. She knows her stuff
 
let go of your ego
 

Leave The Ego Out Of Everything

sara from the membermouse support teamSara Bowling and John Rahm are two amazing people on our support team. If you’ve ever submitted a ticket asking for some help, chances are you’ve interacted with them! They are partners in life as well as business and add these thoughts into the mix:

“I think for us, working together has opened up a lot of doors in both our personal and professional lives,” says Sara. “There are the obvious things, like being able to co-ordinate our schedules a little easier, and we can support each other when one of us is overloaded. Also, the shorthand you develop with people you are close with, can translate to work as well.

I think the biggest thing that someone can do to ensure a good working relationship, is to try and leave the ego out of everything. If you can find ways to make your differences work for you, instead of against you, then you can be stronger as a team. If you find that the extra time together brings frustration, splitting tasks can allow you to play to your strengths, and maybe take a few of your less favorite things off your plate.”

john rahm from the membermouse support teamJohn adds, “There is a power in a working relationship that’s fueled by a personal relationship, and the reverse is also true. When you care for someone, and you share a goal together, it can provide you with a wellspring of determination when things are difficult, and there are many more opportunities to take pride and satisfaction in your combined achievements than you might have by yourself.

I think it’s really important to recognize those opportunities, and to make a point to take advantage of them, particularly when you’re just starting out. More often than not, the business is just barely sustaining itself, and there can be quite a bit of stress with only the two of you to absorb it all. It’s easy to become overwhelmed, and to forget to give your personal relationship the care and attention that it needs to be successful.”

Laugh At Yourself, Each Other, And Have Some Fun!

The Founders of Rogue Territory Karl Thoenessen and Leslie YeungKarl Thoennessen and Leslie Yeung are the founders of Rogue Territory – a global brand that focuses on creating high-quality, handcrafted denim goods and apparel. They joined us on the podcast earlier this year and shared how they built their brand from scratch. Over the past 10 years they have worked very closely together – building both their business and family. We’ll finish up this post with some thoughts from Karl and a funny anecdote from Leslie.

“My advice is to establish roles and responsibilities and talk through all concerns and expectations at the outset,” says Karl. “There will always be challenges, but always remember that you can tackle them together, you’re not alone… even if you made a mistake. And showing appreciation for the other’s hard work is so important. Be your partner’s biggest fan! Leave your ego behind and make shit happen!

And if you want to ask about what Leslie and I fight about as spouses working together, it’s the angle at which she takes the picture of me in the morning before we’re trying to get our kids to school.”

Leslie jokingly chimes in…

“Karl is the worst! Yeah. So, at the busiest time of our day, we’re trying to get our kids… We have a four and a two-year-old so it takes literally 45 minutes to get shoes on them. Karl’s like, “Do you want to take a picture real quick of my outfit?” And I’m like, ‘Here we go.’ So, we go outside and I take a bunch of different pictures and Karl’s just like, ‘No. No. No,’ to every single one. I’m like, ‘You are the worst. You’re not fun to take pictures of.’ But yeah. That’s how our Instagram content is created.”

To hear the rest of that conversation, check out this podcast episode we recorded with them. In it, they share the journey they underwent to build their brand from scratch to a near-cult following in under 10 years.
 
how to work with your family
 

Wrapping Up

So what do you think? Are you ready to team up with your family and start a business?

One of the things that stood out to us as we went through all of these responses is that this is a process. Just like building a business, it takes consistent effort and intention to build a successful working relationship with a family member.

Do you have experience working closely with your family? We’d love to hear about it!

Leave us a comment below and add your voice to the mix.


Matt Brown

Matt is an enthusiastic Marketing Associate at MemberMouse. Originally from Chicago, Matt now resides in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and cat. He loves reading, writing and getting outdoors.

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