What’s it like working with your family? 2


What’s it like working with your family?

I get that question a lot. The answer is:

I guess it depends on your family.

For me, it’s great!

We are a real family business. Being a startup, everyone has four or five jobs.

I’m the CEO. I’m also 1/3 of the software development team, 1/2 of the business development team, help out with marketing and do much of the game design, testing and data analysis.

Maria is Chief Marketing Officer. She’s also my oldest daughter. If you didn’t know, now you know. She’s the other 1/2 of the business development team and when she is not pitching to investors she’s making instructional videos, writing articles, presenting at conferences, editing anything that represents our company, from commercials to investor summaries.

JuliaDennis is our Chief Technology Officer. He is like the Underdog of software developers – humble and lovable. People with his skills are in such demand that the only way I could recruit him to work for startup rates was to sleep with him – which worked out, since we have been married 18 years. Our first collaboration was a smashing success, as you can see from the photo at right.

I’ve heard people say that they could never work with their husband/wife/ child. In our case, there are a few factors that make it a success.

  1. Compatibility – this has nothing to do with how much you love each other and everything to do with how well you work together. Maria likes a lot of the stuff that Dennis hates. She enjoys pitching to investors, hosting events – well, pretty much all the social interaction side. Personally, I like coding more than most things but if there is a need for me to step in anywhere else, I’m not averse to it. Dennis wants to be involved software development and mentoring. Most days, we can all be doing exactly what we want to do. Paradoxically, you can be incompatible at work if you all like the SAME things, because then you argue about who gets to meet with investors and who has to code.
  2. Respect and Boundaries – Some people have problems because one spouse (or parent) is in charge and that spills over into the home. You didn’t back me on this, so now I’m not talking to you. If there is a decision on marketing or sales, whether hiring, budget or direction, Maria has the final say. If it is software-related, Dennis decides. Investor terms, new projects, overall budget, it’s me. The fact that we all came into the company with established track records probably helps.Dennis, me, Maria3. Have a functional family – When investors say they don’t want to invest in startups run by a couple, I have to wonder about their own relationships. If it is a couple who has been dating for six months, I can see the uncertainty. However, if you’ve been married for over a decade, you’ve hopefully established pretty good communication and conflict resolution skills. You know each others’ strengths and weaknesses. If you’re a family, you love each other and have each others’ back. You’re probably not going to jump ship when a competing firm offers you a 35% raise. You feel like you can honestly raise issues that bother you without worrying you’ll be fired.

It seems to me that a family-run business is less likely to fail than other startups – if you have the right family.


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2 thoughts on “What’s it like working with your family?

  • ANDREW GIARNELLA

    I BELIEVE THAT THE ONLY WAY THAT YOU CAN HAVE A SUCCESSFUL PARTNERSHIP IS WHEN ON CANNOT DO WITHOUT THE OTHER. THEY IN EFFECT LEAN ON EACH OTHER THEY DEPEND ON EACH OTHER. AS SOON AS YOU HAVE ONE PARTNER WHO CAN STAND ALONE IT’S JUST A MATTER OF TIME BEFORE IT FALLS APART. A BUSINESS PARTNERSHIP IS JUST LIKE BEING MARRIED. IF IT BREAKS UP IT’S THE SAME AS A DIVORCE. UNLESS YOU CAN AGREE ON A AMICABLE RESOLUTION IT’S OF TO COURT AND THE BATTLE BEGINS. I MYSELF WOULD NEVER GO INTO A PARTNERSHIP WITH ANYBODY. IT IS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO FIND THAT LEAN ON ME PERSON(S). ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE A CONTROL FREAK LIKE ME. I HAVE SEEN NOTHING BUT DISATR IN PARTNERSHIPS. I’VE SEEN PARTNERSHIPS WERE YES THEY NEEDED EACH OTHER BUT ONE HAS TO BE GREEDY AND TURNS INTO A CROOK AND IT’S OFF TO COURT YOU GO. I HAD TWO UNCLES, BROTHER BUSINESS PARTNERS ,WHO DID NOT TALK FOR 20 YEARS. NOT UNTIL ONE WAS ON HIS DEATH BED. AND THE ONE BROTHER ASKED HIS DYING BROTHER. “ARE YOU NOW GOING TO ADMIT THAT YOU CHEATED ME AND APOLOGIZE “