Family Turning the Wheels of Business

Taking work home from the office has long been the source of domestic tension, but for many small businesses it is an unavoidable reality with several generations often roped in to lend a hand.

According to new research, 51 per cent of small business owners say that family members work day-to-day alongside them, with one in three not employing anyone but relatives to kick in when they get busy.

The Party People co-owner Dean Salakas, who took over the family business in NSW with his brother Peter in 2007, says he still employs members of his family to help with the demands of running the shop.

“My mother trains new staff and merchandises a few days a week,” he said. “My grandfather assists with store transfers and my grandmother makes us lunch. It’s a labour of love, but no family is perfect.

“We constantly argue and there’s always a difference of opinion. And when times are tough, the pressure is put on all of us.”

Co-founder of Heads Over Heels and business expert, Alex Birrell, says working with family can seem nearly impossible at times.

“You always impact the family dynamic whether you’re working with them or not,” Birrell says during an Officeworks Paper Cuts podcast hosted by money expert Jason Cunningham. “It can be very difficult.”

“But if you can respect each other’s skills and strengths, and understand their limitations, then anything is possible. Businesses are like partnerships – it’s a family.”

The research, commissioned by Officeworks in partnership with The Daily Telegraph also found that 11 per cent of owners intend to pass the company on to a family member while 23 per cent see the value of selling their business and live off the proceeds. “My parents were planning to sell the party shop,” Mr Salakas said. “They had an interested buyer, but my brother and I purchased it at the buyer’s offer price. Our parents made us pay for it as they didn’t want us taking it for granted.”

Family business expert Philip Pryor says the expectations that parents have can be challenging for some family members. “Parents often feel that their children are not interested and want to go off and do their own thing,” he said. “There are times when the kids are just not qualified to run a business but this should not stop a conversation about succession planning.”

The Salakas brothers saw an opportunity to open a second store in NSW in 2011 and ramped up their online business. In 2015, Dean Salakas appeared on Shark Tank where the company received a $400,000 offer from Boost Juice owner Janine Allis, which they turned down.

Mr Salakas said the decision to walk away from the offer was the right one. “I couldn’t give away half of our family business and even if I considered it, her offer was too low,” he said. “As a family, we have equal goals to grow the shop together and support each other. That’s what family does.”

“I have two children under the age of three who may choose to follow in my footsteps in the future.”

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