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The Dos And Don'ts Of Going Into Business With A Sibling

02/12/2014 12:58 GMT | Updated 02/12/2014 12:59 GMT

Brothers in arms. The phrase speaks of unity yet the setting is unarguably one of war. The same could apply to the saying, ‘sisters are doing it for themselves’. It implies sticking together, but read it another way, and it suddenly starts to sound pretty selfish.

The business of siblings working together can be a minefield. Whether that mine yields precious gems or explosions depends entirely on the chemistry between the siblings involved. For every heartening story such as that of brothers James and John Chivas, who combined their shared social conscience with the science of fine whisky, there’s a blood-soaked tale of a Gucci family tearing each other to shreds. For every Moses and Aaron (who famously co-founded the Exodus), a Cain and Abel.

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The benefits of working together are easy to see. The Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing model of bonding with a new business partner has long been taken care of, meaning the ready-made relationship can lend siblings “a heightened sense of solidarity, enhanced skills in joint decision-making, and a venue for interpersonal issues to arise and be addressed,” says Ed Kopf, PhD, Principal at BMC Associates.

“Or it may mean sharp envy, grudges, and misunderstanding.”

The one thing we can take as gospel is that for siblings to work effectively together, there needs to be clear lines of responsibility drawn so as to avoid stepping on one another’s toes. Shea Parton, who started up the socially motivated lifestyle brand Apolis with his brother Raan Parton, reveals in an interview with style blog Poketo: “Raan does everything creative and I handle the business side.”

Speaking of their highly acclaimed Market Bag series, he gives an example of how sometimes one sibling has to let the other do his job: “if it was up to me the Market Bag would have never happened. Raan was like, ‘This is such a great product and it has so much potential’, and I was like ‘We’re in the men’s business, it seems like such a distraction.’ But Raan insisted that it had potential, so we went with it.”

“Now, over 40,000 market bags have been made, the production of which has employed over 21 women (in Bangladesh) for over a year.”

Knowing who does what, respecting each other’s territory and reaching a happy compromise when the roles overlap are key considerations when going into business with a sibling. But considering so many descend into rivalry, fall-outs and feuds, it’s wise to learn from these famous siblings before you shake on it…

• Raan & Shea Parton are ambassadors for The Venture, a global search for social entrepreneurs with a $1m prize fund & business mentorship for the winners. If you (or your siblings) have a brilliant start-up idea or existing business venture, even if it’s still at the daydream stage, Chivas would like to hear about it. Join us at theventure.com to find out more.

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