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Ask Dave

Family and business

A relative asked Becky and her husband for a job at their small business. They have reservations about hiring this person, but they don't know how to handle the situation. Dave gives them advice entrepreneurs everywhere should hear.

QUESTION: Becky and her husband own a small business. Recently, one of their relatives asked for a job. Their gut reaction is to say no, in large part because of several dysfunctional relationships within their family, but they’re not sure how to respond.

ANSWER: Hiring a family member doesn’t mean you give up ownership of your business. You still get to decide what you’re going to do and not going to do. Just because you hire one family member doesn’t mean you have to hire another. And it definitely doesn’t mean you have to put up with his momma. Would you hire this guy if he wasn’t part of the family? Would you hire this guy because he would make a good team member? If the answers are no, then you don’t hire him.

When someone walks through the front door of the business, you have to change hats. He’s no longer “Cousin Bob.” He’s your director of marketing or whatever. He puts on his employee hat, and you and your husband put on your owner hats. At that point, your relative has to behave like a high-functioning, excellent team member. You and your husband have to serve him well and pay him well like quality leaders do. You also have to lead him just like you would lead the other people in the organization, and he has to perform at the same level or higher than the other people in the organization. Then, when you walk outside the door, you guys can put on your family hats, and you can go sit down to a family dinner.

The hat scenario has helped us keep it clean around here. It’s helped us answer the question of whether we would hire someone. If you wouldn’t hire them if they’re not family, that’s a big no. But if they’re excellent people and they’re in your family, that’s actually a plus!