The fine art to working successfully with family
Despite the old axiom, never do business with family, Adam Drexler, founder of furniture retailer and e-tailer Matt Blatt has been able to work successfully with son Joel, who now runs the day-to-day business as general manager.
Here are their five tips for working successfully with family.
1) Stay humble and hands-on
There’s no such thing as ‘prescriptive’ job descriptions in a family business. There are plenty of benefits from gaining a hands-on education in every aspect of operations. In Joel’s case that includes packing orders, working on reception, selling on the showroom floor, buying products, customer service and devising creative promotions – especially when it comes to understanding (non-family) staff-related issues.
2) Be prepared to make mistakes
Taking risks and being adventurous with business decisions has always been at the heart of the Matt Blatt furniture business. Admittedly, not every risk pays off, but if they hadn’t been adventurous and open to fresh ideas, they wouldn’t be here today. As well as being early adopters of online technology, they pioneered the replica furniture game in Australia and continue ‘testing the waters’ with the types of products they sell. They’d rather be flexible, fun and unpredictable than safe and set in their ways.
3) Draw a line between work-time and family-time
Respecting the difference between work and family time is critical. Adam doesn’t call Joel late at night to discuss work, even if he’s thinking about it and he knows that if he emails him about business on the weekend, he won’t reply until Monday. They’re good at respecting these boundaries, and that makes the relationship work, both personally and professionally.
4) Move forward with confidence
In the early stages of a small family business, sometimes you just have to go with what you think is the ‘most right’ road forward, even if you don’t have all the answers.
5) Don’t put nepotism before capability
Even in a family business, it’s essential that all staff are equally accountable. While Adam always hoped family would be involved in the business, he never believed in putting them into positions they were neither ready for nor capable of performing to a certain standard. If Joel hadn’t shown an aptitude for this business, or a willingness to learn, he wouldn’t be working here, and certainly not as general manager.