What is it like working with family?
From left: Fiona, Rebecca, Michael and Clare Kelly. Image: Glandore

What is it like working with family?

4 Apr 2018868 Views

Your family and your work can each take up a huge portion of your life. So, what happens when these two worlds collide?

We all have different experiences with colleagues. Sometimes they can be like a family away from your own family, and sometimes they can be quite difficult to work with.

We can also have very different experiences with our actual families. One person’s nightmare sibling could be the dream family set-up to someone else.

But have you ever thought about what it would be like to mix your work life with your family life? What if your colleagues were your family members?

I heard from brothers and sisters, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, and whole families to find out what it’s like for their colleagues to be their family members.

The Kelly family, Glandore

In 2001, Michael Kelly founded Glandore, a company that offers flexible workspaces in Dublin and Belfast. It wasn’t long before his daughters Clare, Fiona and Rebecca (pictured with Michael above) joined the company. “Each of us did summer stints helping out in those first few years, earning some pocket money and gaining work experience,” said Rebecca.

Since then, all three daughters have worked in different areas of the business. Fiona said she thinks there is an honesty in working with family. “They know who you are – the good, the bad and the ugly,” she said. “There is no hiding, which can be both confronting at times, but also incredibly reassuring at others. We are each other’s biggest cheerleaders and take such pride in seeing one another succeed.”

While there is plenty of room to share in achievements, Clare said they quickly learned the need for boundaries. “When we are in work, we try to talk about work; and when we are with family, we talk about family,” she said. “We don’t always get it right and play by this rule, but it has helped to ensure we can create the right balance of work and home life.”

Managing director Michael said that one of the uniquely positive things about working with family is getting to spend time with each other more than a typical family would. “We genuinely enjoy each other and laugh a lot so that makes work all the more enjoyable.”

David and Stephanie Ciccarelli, Voices.com

Husband-and-wife team David and Stephanie Ciccarelli are the co-founders of Voices.com. “We came up with the idea after an article was written about my recording studio in the local newspaper,” said David.

“Stephanie’s mom read the article, cut it out and left it on her bed. Stephanie, a classically trained singer and musician, came into the studio to record her singing repertoire. We hit it off and have never looked back.”

David said, as a married couple working together, it’s important to recognise that practically 100pc of your time is spent together, from waking up or having lunch, to team meetings and going to sleep.

“We’ve learned to carve out our own areas of responsibility and create the circumstances where each of us can thrive as individuals.” he said. “This creates the space for each of us to own our piece of a growing company.”

David and Stephanie Ciccarelli

David and Stephanie Ciccarelli, Voices.com. Image: Voices.com

Like the Glandore family, David said the biggest challenge for him and his wife is establishing healthy boundaries between work and home life. “Recognising which hat you’re wearing and not blending conversations are what we’ve found to be important ways to overcome the challenges of working with a family member.”

However, there are many benefits to working with a family member, especially the natural effects of a family-run business. “We also know all of our employees by name, their families and the great work they do in the company,” said David. “There’s rarely a need to explain a backstory because we just know it.”

Samira Zaidan and Mona Alyedreessy, Azara Beautique

Dr Samira Zaidan is a member of the British Homeopathic Association and has a medical knowledge in traditional herbal uses and benefits that spans more than 20 years. Her daughter Mona is a sociologist who has always had a keen interest in her mother’s passion. Together, they created Azara Beautique, which produces natural, handcrafted soaps. Samira is the expert behind the product while Mona manages the business side of things.

“I have always had a very close relationship with my mother and we both have very similar personalities, which makes her very easy to work with,” said Mona. “It is a beautiful thing to be able to work with family members who are as passionate as you are about your work.”

She said working with her mother means they don’t have official working hours, which can be a benefit when they choose to stay up late. “The main bonus, however, is the ability to keep certain production secrets within the family, so it is something that I would love to pass on to my daughter one day and so on,” said Mona.

However, as expected with families, personal issues can sometimes arise more than in a normal work setting. “When a family member isn’t putting their all into the business, it can drag a business down, especially if you have depended on that person to carry out a specific role.” Mona said she and her mother avoid this by creating and sticking to a schedule of tasks. “Due to the strong relationship and shared interests we have, we cooperate with each other well,” she said.

Mona Alyedreessy and Dr Samira Zaidan Azara

From left: Mona Alyedreessy and Dr Samira Zaidan, Azara. Image: Azara

Since the beginning of time, families have always pulled together to create a family business that is passed on from generation to generation and we would like to see more of these types of ventures, as it is a beautiful way of bringing family members together,” said Mona.

Harry and Charlie Thuillier, Oppo Ice-Cream

Oppo Ice-Cream came about for brothers Harry and Charlie Thuillier after a lightbulb moment while travelling. “A few years ago, the two of us tried to break a record for the longest distance travelled by kite power on land, along the north coast of Brazil,” said Harry.

“We did eventually manage it, but not before running out of food. We were inspired by the wild fruit growing along the Brazilian coastline, which tasted amazing and was nutritious, too.” From there, the brothers worked towards creating Oppo, delicious ice-cream that is also healthy.

Charlie said what makes working with family so unique is that you can look out for each other, whatever happens. “You know how you each tick so you know how to communicate and work with one another.” Harry concurred, adding that they can trust each other completely. “You might sometimes disagree but you will always support and want the best for your family. Even if you are the wiser older brother!”

Harry and Charlie Thuillier, Oppo Ice-cream

From left: Charlie and Harry Thuillier, Oppo Ice-Cream. Image: Oppo Ice-Cream

In keeping with the emerging pattern among families that work together, Harry said that not talking about work when the whole family is together at the weekend can be tough. He also alluded to the importance of keeping personal or family feelings out of work. “Don’t allow emotions, ego or past experiences to cloud judgement, communication or decision-making,” he said.

Julien and Jessica Lavault, FizzUp

Julien Lavault not only works with his wife Jessica, but has worked with his younger sister Marion, both in the past and at his current company FizzUp, a digital personal trainer. “Working with Marion was a great opportunity because she had the skillset and education that was needed for the writing and editing aspect of the business,” said Julien.

“My wife Jessica has been involved in helping with what goes on behind the scenes of the app. She has been using and testing FizzUp since the very beginning, providing me with useful feedback that has made FizzUp a success. Eventually, she began to assist me with the legalities and management of the business.”

Julien said when it comes to the company, he makes no distinction between family members and other employees. “There is no difference in the way that I treat members of my staff or family members,” he said. “I am still able to see Jessica and Marion, which is enjoyable, but it is healthy to have a distinction between private life and working life.”

Jessica said she enjoys seeing Julien in a work environment. “I get to see his personality in a different environment, which makes me respect him more,” she said.

Jessica and Julien Lavault, FizzUp

Jessica and Julien Lavault, FizzUp. Image: FizzUp

Jessica said the biggest challenge is drawing a line between work and family. “When we critique each other at work, it is hard not to take it personally as a wife, but rather as a colleague. But we manage most of the time!” She said they also work out together, which is great for their mental health.

“Overall, it really is a positive experience working together because you understand so much more,” said Jessica, who views Julien as an entrepreneur and boss at work. “It’s different from what I see when he’s a husband or a father.”

Ruth and Sabina Willis, La Chiva

Ruth Willis was born in Colombia and missed the delicious fruit and vegetables that grow there, so she founded La Chiva to create snacks from her home country. Her daughter Sabina takes care of any photography, runs the social media platforms and organises trade shows. Her mother focuses on the logistics, finances and sales.

Sabina said working with her mother is great because they’re both so passionate about the business. “We’re also not afraid to tell each other when we think they’re doing something wrong.”

Sabina and Ruth Willis, La Chiva

From left: Sabina and Ruth Willis, La Chiva. Image: La Chiva

However, disagreements can happen with family members working together and the Willis team is no different. “If we disagree on something, it can be a challenge but I respect my mum’s ideas so we manage to compromise,” said Sabina. Ruth concurred, saying that they are both strong-willed. “But in allowing each other to speak and explain their reasons, all differences can be solved,” she said.

Both women said that it’s so much fun working together, it doesn’t feel like work at all. “It’s fun, it’s laughter, it’s joy,” said Ruth.

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny is the Careers Editor at Siliconrepublic.com, although she prefers to be known as Careers Overlord. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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