Starting and running a business with family members is a fairly common feat, but as anyone who has done so will admit it can be a struggle to maintain personal and professional relationships when those people are one and the same. Grant Palmer, founder and CEO of sports betting company Palmerbet, explores the challenges and rewards of starting a business with family members.
To be friends with your colleagues or to keep them at arm’s length? It’s a question that has always and continues to split opinion and stir debate.
There is the school of thought that colleagues should remain just that – limiting personal feelings towards somebody, ultimately, means that you can perform your job to a higher standard as you have no obligation to individuals and no concern in regard to damaging friendships.
The opposing view is that you spend majority of your life at work (depressing thought eh?!) and developing bonds and friendships is totally healthy. Whether it be a beer on a Friday or a mid-week exercise class, surely these relationships can only help you understand colleagues better and increase your enjoyment and subsequently your performance at work.
But what do you do when your business partners are those closest to you?
Back in 2013, that was a question I was about to face. I packed in my job at Merrill Lynch and founded sports betting company, Palmerbet, alongside my two brothers. It's an industry that has always been close to our family’s hearts ever since us three boys used to help our father and grandfather on the weekends as on-course bookies.
To make things fully a family affair, our mother also assumed the role of company solicitor. Extra pressure to make things work? Or extra motivation?
Maintaining a strong relationship with my family during this process has always been paramount. But as CEO, I’m ultimately responsible for the future of the company, so if somebody needs to up their game, then I have to be able to deliver this message in the best possible way.
I think the key to making this work is addressing this before you enter business – all parties need to accept that, at times, difficult conversations will need to be had, but it’s never anything personal. These issues need to be tackled prior to entering any agreement as when running a business, you should be looking to keep surprises to a minimum.
The three of us engaging in something that we have been passionate about since childhood is another factor that drives us closer together. We have similar visions of what we see for the business and the industry.
We are lucky that the business is both our passion and our careers. Of course there have been disagreements over the years, but it’s always been done with business hats on instead of brotherly hats on – this is crucial for anyone in a similar position.
One element that has helped us maintain a close relationship is that we find the time to switch off and just enjoy each other’s company on a social basis, without worrying about budgets, forecasts or competitor analysis. It’s a slippery slope the minute you forget to do this.
Although founding and running a company from scratch is certainly more than a full-time job, we are careful not to let it affect family life. Our mum and dad obviously have an interest in how the business is going, but they are more concerned with how we are getting on as individuals.
Even when working on the racecourse on a Saturday, we never forget why we fell in love with the sport and the industry in the first place, and are careful not to lose the essence of fun.
It would be remiss of me to say there hadn’t been challenges along the way – three brothers working in close proximity in a very competitive industry can certainly lead to sticky situations.
Setting professional guidelines, never allowing personal relationships to be sacrificed and staying true to family values are the major reasons why we have made Palmerbet a success.
While some people may express doubts over entering business with siblings or loved ones, for me, following your dream and sharing it with those closest to you is one hell of a reward.
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