How to Go Into Business With a Parent and Stay Sane

Photo (cc) by Lars Plougmann

Imagine being 35 and having to run all your work decisions by your parent. Does that sound like a splendid way to get feedback or the setup for a never-ending stream of criticism?

For those who give the latter answer, going into business with mom or dad might sound like a nightmare waiting to happen. However, in reality, parent/child partnerships can survive family dynamics and even lead to thriving businesses.

Meet two mother-daughter teams

To find out how they make it work, Money Talks News spoke with two mother/daughter business teams that launched successful product lines.

First, we chatted with Carol Cole and Tera Valdez-Peterson who are co-founders of NuFACE. Cole had been in the aesthetics business for more than 20 years and saw a need for her clients to have affordable skin treatments between their visits to her.

In 2005, she and her daughters Valdez-Peterson and Kimberly Morales launched NuFACE from a garage and began selling microcurrent facial lifting and toning devices. Within three years, the company was successful enough to move to a professional building, and in 2015, the company received a QStar Award from QVC in the “Most Innovative” category.

The next team we talked to was Bella and Chrissy Weems, co-founders of Origami Owl, a direct-sales company featuring customizable lockets. The Weems’ story is slightly unusual in that Bella was only a teen when she went into business with her mom.

After deciding that babysitting wasn’t going to bring in the money needed to buy a car before her 16th birthday, Bella turned to her mom with a business idea to sell lockets. In 2010, Origami Owl was launched and in 2015, it was ranked No. 60 on the Direct Selling News Global 100 list with 2014 revenue of $250 million.

While there’s no guarantee you’ll have a $250 million idea, you can certainly up your chances of success by following these tips from our mother/daughter business teams:

1. Find a shared passion

Both the NuFACE and Origami Owl founders say they shared a passion for their respective product. They didn’t go into business together simply for the sake of having a family business but rather because they felt strongly about what they were selling.

“I’m so tremendously moved that my daughters share my passion for something I’ve dedicated my life to,” says Cole. “That contributes to our success.”

Chrissy Weems echoes that sentiment. “Find something you are both passionate about and set goals,” she says when asked what advice she would give to potential parent/child business partners.

2. Leave the parent/child titles at the door

Perhaps surprisingly, neither Valdez-Peterson nor Bella Weems say they have ever felt as if they had to defer to their mom because she’s, well, mom.

“There have definitely been times when there have been differences in opinions,” Valdez-Peterson says. “We all respect each other’s opinions and backgrounds. We’ve learned how to act that way.”

To reach business bliss, moms and dads need to learn not to pull rank on their child. Meanwhile, children need to remember they should be treated as equals when it comes to business matters and speak up when they want to contribute.

3. Assign roles based on personal strengths

While business partners should have equal standing, they also need to play to their strengths. Valdez-Peterson says her business degree and background made her the logical choice to be the NuFACE CEO. Meanwhile, her mom plays the role of “mad scientist” to innovate and improve their product line while her sister is the “worker bee.”

As a teen, Bella Weems says it was particularly important for her to make use of other people’s expertise, including that of her mom. “It was really important for me to surround myself with people who knew more than me,” she says.

4. Separate family life from business life

One of the biggest challenges for parent/child partnerships is the ability to separate business and personal lives.

“We struggle,” Valdez-Peterson says. “It’s hard to not talk about [the business] at family dinners and on holidays.”

Cole agrees. “It’s most challenging to keep the dynamics of the family separate,” she says. “When you come to the office, you’re focusing on the business and not focusing on anything outside that door.”

Chrissy Weems has had an added challenge with Bella being so young when Origami Owl was founded. “The most challenging part is reminding my daughter that she must find time to be a kid,” she explains.

5. The company is always No. 1

When it comes to shutting down disagreements and avoiding potential power struggles among family members, it helps if everyone involved keeps their focus on the bigger picture.

“The company is always No. 1,” Cole says. “We’re always doing what’s best for the company and our customers.”

While there may inevitably be disagreements, working collaboratively rather than combatively is a key component of business success.

“We really take each other’s ideas into consideration and work together,” Bella Weems says.

Those in a successful parent/child business are likely to tell you the experience is worth any aggravation that may come from working with a family member. “I love working with my mom,” Bella Weems says. “I’m going to cherish this time together.”

What suggestions can you offer for building a successful family business? Share in comments below.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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