Five things I have learned starting a business with my brother

used cars

By Paul Higgins, Director HelloCars

HelloCars was founded by me and my brother Michael – because we knew we could do used-car sales better than they’re currently being done in Australia.

Michael has great experience in the motoring industry and my background is in business, so it was a natural fit when we started talking about the idea to go into business together.

But working with someone as closely related as your brother can be challenging. Here are some things I have learned so far on our journey.

Establish boundaries early
Before we started we established very basic rules.

When making a decision, both partners have to say yes, otherwise it’s a no. And if you said no when yes was actually the right decision, there’s no place for anyone to say “I told you so”.

I think it’s really important to challenge ideas – but when we make a resolution, we both have to agree.

A matter of trust
As siblings, we probably understand better our personality traits and strengths because of our relationship. But that doesn’t mean that siblings automatically make good partners. I’ve heard horror stories about families in business together. There needs to be a baseline of trust in a relationship whether you’re siblings or not to make a partnership work.

Partners first, brothers second
We’re really conscious about how our being siblings impacts the team and employees. So when at work we’re usually partners first, brothers second for a few reasons: we don’t want to seem like amateurs and run our company like an extension of our family. We’ve got big company ambitions and with that comes a level of professionalism and openness and trust among everyone in the team and I’d like to make sure we’re embodying that. We try not to be too brotherly because it’s not good for a team environment and we don’t want to breed an “us and them” mentality.

No secrets
You have to make sure your goals are completely aligned – a successful partnership can’t be based on one person making decisions in order to benefit his or herself.

Before we even went down this road together we also discussed that we wouldn’t allow there to be any business secrets. We share results of conversations to make sure we’re across everything that’s important.

Time and place
We both enjoy spending time together and with our extended family outside of work and we’ve found it’s easier to keep personal out of work, but harder to keep work out of the personal. You find in the nature of start-up life, you’re so involved in all aspects of the business, things happen often outside of normal work hours. Sometimes you have to apply a bit of a filter and say does the other partner really need to know that right now or can it wait until Monday?