5 Tips for Successfully Working with Your Parents

In my work with small, privately-held businesses, I often get to know parents and children who run their companies together. Some relationships thrive and achieve great business success while others seem to struggle.

Personally, my dad and I have been in business together for nearly 15 years — the first seven in sales partnership, and the recent in business ownership.

Through the partnerships I’ve gotten to know and the first-hand experience in working with my dad, I’ve discovered five tips to ensure your parent/child working relationship is one that flourishes, grows and achieves great things for your business.

1. Mutual respect

Like any successful relationship, a strong foundation of mutual respect goes a long way.

Children, recognize where your parents have been and what they accomplished before you became their business partner. Honor the wisdom and knowledge they accumulated through the years.

Parents, celebrate what your children bring to the table, both in youthful energy and exuberance as well as skills and talents unique to them.

2. Know yourself and each other

Temperaments and personalities vary greatly. I recommend that any parents and children going into business together take some time to learn more about who they all are as individuals. The more you can understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and what makes each person tick, the more effectively and efficiently you can work together.

For example, my father and I are very complementary, bringing different and even opposite temperaments and skill sets to the table. Some other parent/child partners are like two peas in a pod, identical in many ways. Depending on the match, you will have differing challenges and benefits as you go into business.

3. Recognize the stages

There are various stages to parents and children working together. As the child first joins the parent in business, there will be a very obvious mentor/mentee relationship. Eventually, this will transition into more of an equal partnership, as the parent has imparted his or her wisdom on the child, and the child has professionally come into his or her own.

Finally, there comes a time when the parent might slow down, leaving the child to carry more of the weight and responsibility.

Recognize that these stages are natural — and learn to spot which you are in and when you might be shifting from one to another. And remember, a foundation of respect helps smooth all of these transitions.

4. Leave work at work

As in all of life, appropriate work/life balance is vital in a parent/child working relationship. As much as my dad and I might have business on the brain, we are very intentional about keeping all “after hours” conversations and interactions revolving around personal topics when at all possible.

Additionally, you might find that, like me, you have siblings not involved in your partnership. It is important that all the children have quality personal time with their parents, and it’s not fair to anyone if you dominate family gatherings with talk of business.

5. Have fun

Most importantly, remember to have fun. The clichés ring true — life is short, family relationships are more important than business, your parents won’t be with you forever, and so on. Take this to heart.

Working with one or both of your parents is not something everyone has the opportunity to do. Treasure and take advantage of the time you get to spend with your parent, and make sure you enjoy it.