We’ve all heard that hiring family is a bad idea. And the reasons make sense: family members might not take the work seriously, they’ll expect special treatment, or a family dispute will rear its ugly head during staff meetings.
Despite these very real concerns, in my experience, there are a number of advantages to having your own flesh and blood on your team. In my three years as a startup entrepreneur, I have made use of the talents of three of my siblings. I’ve even hired two of them full time to handle marketing and communications for my online advertising company, GraphicBomb. It may seem risky to some, but I have never regretted my decision to hire family.
Popular consensus aside, here are my top five reasons I think it’s a good idea to bring a family member onto your team.
They Believe in You and Your Vision
No one close to you wants you to fail, and that’s especially true of a parent, sibling, cousin or other family member. They’ve been with you through graduations, first jobs and various steps in your proverbial move up the ladder. A family member you hire will want to see your business do well, and will go the extra mile to help in whatever way they can. Family members will be more invested in your success.
It can be a challenge to hire talent in the beginning stages of building a company. When I started GraphicBomb, I was lucky that my sister Karen believed in what I was doing and worked evenings to help me get the company off the ground. It would have been impossible for me to hire someone off the street who had the same level of passion.
They’ll Hit You With the Hard Truth
For better or worse, a family member is going to tell you what you need to hear, even if it stings.
When starting a company, you need to surround yourself with honesty, including from your own employees. A family member is less likely to hold back crucial feedback that could save your company from disaster because it’s more than just a job to them, too.
For example, I proposed an idea in a recent staff meeting and my sister immediately shot it down and proposed an even better idea. I accepted her suggestion. The real benefit of this scenario was that the other staff could see that I welcome better ideas no matter where they come from. Having people on the team who stand up to you can be advantageous for your business.
You Can Trust a Family Member
Of course this depends on the person, but if you can trust them in general, you can probably trust them to help with your business. This is especially true of location-independent positions in a virtual company. Having trustworthy employees is crucial when you can’t be there to watch over them every second. You’re too busy running the business to micromanage people.
When I was first starting out, I hired my youngest sister to help with light editorial work that had to get done on a daily schedule. I knew I could count on her to get the work done on time and up to my standards.
Your Communication and Leadership Style Won’t Faze Them
Family members don’t need a long ramp to get to know you and your way of doing things — that’s old news to them, so they can jump right into their role without having to nervously decipher every nuance of every email or phone call from the boss.
When I hired my sister Theresa, she hit the ground running right away. The usual three-month ramp-up period was more like three days, or maybe even three hours. Through talking informally to me and Karen before she was hired, she already had a solid understanding of the business and our roles. Speed is important in a startup, so reducing ramp-up periods can have a huge positive impact on your business immediately.
You Can Help Boost Their Careers
You might have to wait until the right moment, which is usually when your business needs and the family member’s skills and experience intersect. But when this happens, it can be a beautiful thing to bring in family to help them take the next step in their professional path.
For each sibling I’ve brought on board, I’ve waited until the time was right for them. I’ve kept tabs on my siblings and followed their careers and their interests. I’ve waited until the right time for the business, too. But when there is an intersection of opportunity, hiring siblings is a real treat for me.
In summary, if you do decide to take the plunge and hire a family member, seek the advice of those who have done so before. Be sure you’ve done your research and have a solid strategy so you can avoid any conflicts or sticky situations that could negatively impact your business and your personal life.
Be sure to have written agreements just as you would for non-family, so there are no misunderstandings later. And of course, you should avoid showing special treatment to family to the detriment of your other staff.