285: How to Run a Successful Business With Family

19 Minutes Read

Few things are as fulfilling as creating an impactful, lucrative business with people you truly love, i.e. family. 

Talk about work/life harmony! When you get it right, there's really no feeling quite like it.

But it's not enough just to know each other well and get along great most of the time. Running a successful business with family requires a little extra thoughtfulness and, yes, structure to keep things flowing. 

In this episode you will discover:

  • Why your company's vision and values need to be more explicit and clear when working with family, and how to do it
  • How to create boundaries so your business doesn't take over your family life
  • How to give feedback that moves the business forward without pointing fingers or getting overly personal—and how to take that feedback and grow
  • Structures that can help keep you on track without being overly rigid or micromanaging one another
  • The importance of clear roles for performing at a high level and making sure important details don't slip through the cracks

This is a rich episode that is many years in the making and we're so excited to share it with you!


The Superbound book is available for preorder, with lots of special bonuses just for people who buy the book early. Learn more about the book and get the bonuses for preordering here.

Grow Smooth for Lean Teams will support you in developing your Vision so you and your business partners / family members can be more aligned. Learn more and get started here.

If you want a supportive and experienced coach as you navigate the challenging yet rewarding path of working with family, we have openings for new VIP one-to-one clients. Learn more and book a consultation here.

Listen to this week's episode on Apple Podcasts here

Listen to it on Spotify here


Watch the video here


Full Transcript

Steve Haase  0:01  
Hey everybody, it's great to be here. My name is Steve Haase, and I'm Erin Aquin, and we are doing the Superabound podcast from our yoga and meditation space. It's full of magic here we do our esoteric rituals, we do our meditation, we do our journaling this, this is a powerful place. And today we're going to talk to you about working with family, working with family, we are married family, we didn't grow up with each other. But it's it's it's intimate. It's close your it's close quarters and to be working together. I know a lot of couples that run a business, and many of them say, how do you guys do it? Even if they're doing it? Great. Everybody wants to know, how do you do it better? How do you actually make it work? So we're gonna have some fun exploring, I don't even know what the answer is, we're just going to kind of unravel it together. Yeah,

Erin Aquin  0:58  
and this is also when you work with us when you're a VIP client, because ask us all the questions. And so this podcast in particular, one of our clients, asked us to record it, because she is bringing on more members of her family into her business, she has just had exponential growth, like a wild time in her business, and is bringing more of her family into her onto our team. And we're gonna we want to, like help her navigate some of those challenges that will be there ahead of time. And so we're sharing it with all of you. So basically

Steve Haase  1:38  
a private recording that we're putting out for everyone. Lucky you.

Erin Aquin  1:44  
Okay, so we again, can only share our story, we don't necessarily know what is right for you, or like the temperament of your particular family member or your partner. But I will start by saying that I've always wanted to work with Steve, I've always wanted to work with you. It's true, we back in the day. Back in the day,

Speaker 1  2:07  
I was a yoga teacher.

Erin Aquin  2:11  
And at some point, Steve was coming to visit me we had a long distance dating relationship, and he was visiting me and he said, You should like have a blog or like some online classes, like you should join this internet thing.

Steve Haase  2:26  
And also, I was just like, you have this bubbly personality, this beautiful voice people beyond the Hamilton need to hear and know about you. That's

Erin Aquin  2:34  
really sweet. So I started a website and put my like $7 yoga classes online. It's kind of funny now because I've recently started a membership for some of my old yoga students. That's all about magical living and yoga, meditation, esoteric practices magic. So it was kind of been a little bit of a full circle, time. But Steve really walked me through how to build an online presence that wasn't like scammy, or spammy. And I just remember on some of those weekends, you know, being more excited about sorry to bring more excited about getting to sit and work with you. Then I was for like the date, like the going out for dinner part. We started teaching classes together, we did a meditation teacher training together. And I just have always kind of felt a deeper spiritual intimacy, intertwined with my work, but then having you join me in that and have that going on for yourself as well always. It feels like another facet of the relationship that I actually. I mean, I don't think it's for everybody. But I feel like it's something that's really unique and special about what we get to do together.

Steve Haase  4:00  
Yeah, so if I were to pull a principle out of that, it would be like connecting on the purpose, right, having a shared purpose. Because that was always my experience of it to the fact that you were a great meditation teacher and yoga teacher and wanted to help other people thrive. Felt like the icing on the cake to our relationship. I was just like, this is fantastic, because it's something that I'm passionate about too. And we're able to share it together and not that you have to share as much of your life as possible, but it's really cool when you can, because, you know, you create a different kind of relationship with your business partners than you do with your life partners. And so allowing that to be in the same person is is a special thing. It's really powerful.

Erin Aquin  4:58  
And it's not Not always aligned, but And you shouldn't push it if it's not aligned. But I think this is why it's so important to have your vision and your values well articulated. Because then you can see like, are we just talking about wanting to work together because it's convenient, or are you actually aligned and passionate about the same thing that I am, and you want to do it through the lens of the same values that I share? That is really important, because there's a lot of couples that just decide to work together because they want to be able to travel at the same time. And I don't know that that's necessarily a good enough reason to combine your lives in that way, whether it's family, whether it's friend, a good friend, or whether it's your your partner.

Steve Haase  5:50  
So I'm, I'm going to go on a little flight of fancy here, my brother and I, we we get along really well really like each other. He's very entrepreneurial, full of ideas. And I don't want to work with him. Sorry, Johnny, you know, I love you. We've, we've floated the idea before, you say hey, wouldn't this be cool, I can totally be cool. But the dynamic was never such that I really wanted to go all in. Because there was something not like butting heads or competitive Yeah, like butting heads and competitive where, where, like, the ideas would almost be overshadowed by the dynamics are the dynamics would be so strong that they would almost get in the way of actual execution or long term success. We've been working in our coaching business together for over three years now. And I think a big part of that is because of the dynamics, the flexibility that we're able to create together, make it so that we never, there are no explosions, there are no big explosions in the business. So one of our values is simply no drama. And we come back to that, and another as business as a spiritual practice. And so between those, and the realization of like, you're always 50% of the situation that you're always take full responsibility for your 50% make it so that the the dynamics never overshadow the mission.

Erin Aquin  7:27  
Yeah, and that didn't just happen by magic. That is something that we have had to consciously also create by having boundaries. So the thing is, when you do work with someone who you love, and you have a whole other part of your relationship with is, it can be so easy to just be like, Yay, let's work all the time. And let's talk about things. Sometimes I get ideas right before I go to sleep, and so easy to just turn over and say, Steve, what do you think about this idea, I have an idea for a retreat that we're going to do in the summer as I'm falling asleep. And that is, it comes from such an amazing creative place. But in a way, I had to learn that it wasn't respectful to the other part of relationship with my husband, with my partner, and I'm not perfect at it. I'm certainly sometimes over breakfast, we'll start typing away. And throwing ideas out there, like I do get kind of caught up in my own creative flow and very sorry when I do but being able to have the presence of mind to know that that's happened, or the humility to be told by my person when it's happening. Like, Steve has a very good way of saying, is this something we want to be working on today on our Sunday? Is it should we do this work today? Or could we put that in Slack and have them talk about that at the meeting next week? It's it's not combative or full of conflict. It's just this really loving, easy way of reminding me like, Oh, we don't have we're not in our office, we're not in a work our that separation is really important. So I would suggest for anyone who is working with family or working with someone that you also live with you actually at the beginning and then throughout have really solid borders around when we are working and when we are in the other facet of our relationship.

Steve Haase  9:45  
And you're really good at that with me as well. You keep me you know, you provide a good set of guardrails for life in general.

Erin Aquin  9:55  
I'm not as kind about I'm not I'm sometimes I'll be like, no, no, no, stop. I mean,

Steve Haase  10:03  
but it's always taken in the spirit that it's given, which is with love. And, you know, what will help you, with your partner with your person or with your family member? is the willingness to give and receive feedback feedback? Like, if there is no, hey, can we talk about this another time? Or, Hey, how did this you know, go off the rails in that way, or, Hey, let's develop a procedure so that we don't face this problem again. You have to be willing to go into the, the tricky territory, the providing feedback, basically, kind of shifting from, hey, you're my, you're my partner, I love you as you are to, hey, we're in business together, we need to evolve or repeat as the, as the shirt says there, right? So being willing to, to push each other to push yourself and wanting to have integrity with with that desire, like saying, okay, yes, I want to evolve, and therefore I'm open to your feedback, I'm going to provide feedback so that we can all grow together. It's a tricky thing, right? To actually say it in a way that's loving, that's not nagging that's actually effective, but also clear. It takes practice, and it takes a desire to do that.

Erin Aquin  11:31  
I mean, some of you know, that I used to when I started my coaching business, before Steve joined, joined me. And we created Superabound, I was a relationship coach. So I would coach individuals and couples on basically all day long on their communication on their issues between each other. And the really interesting thing is, even though we primarily now work with business owners and leaders, communication is always the issue. It's always the thing that we are learning how to do. And when you're working with someone who you're also close to, I think you have to be a better communicator than pretty much anyone else on the planet. And it's not something you just need to know, inherently and naturally, I don't think we're actually taught the skill of really good communication. But something that I'm always working on with my myself and my clients is the art of over communication. Because it's so easy, especially in a relationship that is close to see somebody roll their eyes and think, oh, they hate me, they think this is a stupid idea. Oh, they are, you know, really mad at me. And now we're not gonna even want to have dinner together. And like, just take it to an extreme that's unhelpful, both for the business and for the relationship. If you can train yourself, and be vulnerable enough and talk about it with your, your person, if you can say, I noticed you just rolled your eyes. And I'm making that mean a whole bunch of other things over here. But I'd love to know what you're experiencing before I jumped to that conclusion. It seems like it's such an easy thing to identify. But it's really tricky. I don't think it's I think it's hard to do this without a coach. You could read my book, revitalize your relationship, because I do have some tools for how to have delicate conversations or challenging conversations, I have a whole framework for how to think that through if you're bringing something to the table that you don't think will be received well. But part of it is just saying, here's what's going on in my mind, about what you just said or about what your face looks like. I always think Steve is mad at me because when he's working he's down here and kind of frowns. I have a little thing here now from doing my Steven pression. Browning down here. I can't type

Steve Haase  14:06  
while I'm smiling. I don't know. Just

Erin Aquin  14:08  
the facial, but I have to ask. I'm like, Oh, you look upset. Are you okay? And he'll remind me like just this just my concentrating face. I'm totally fine.

Steve Haase  14:16  
It's my typing face. It's how I work.

Erin Aquin  14:20  
But if I didn't just ask, it would be so easy for my little hunting dog brain to go to the place where it making it mean like what did I do wrong? What did I say wrong? Maybe I was too pushy. Maybe I bulldoze him on something. Even though I'm the CEO of the company. So I just want to say that too, because I know a lot of leaders, read facial expressions from people in meetings and just take it to a place that has losing sleep and it's just like, not good. If you notice a reaction from someone, there's nothing stopping you from saying What's happening for you right now are you doing.

Steve Haase  15:03  
And that brings a point to mind for me that you have to be ready to deal with very intense emotions, sometimes very unpleasant emotions, without doing much about them. Like if you can handle that sense of insecurity, of upset when we wrote our book. First we went through a process of having an editor look at it. And then another editor looked at it, and then we did more editing ourselves in Erin's red pen was freaking brutal, relentless nonstop on my stuff. And the feelings that went through my body. Very, very tender, very upset. And I, you know, it was okay, because I knew where she was coming from, and in the end did make the book better, he

Erin Aquin  16:00  
was gonna think his sections are better than mine. Yeah,

Steve Haase  16:03  
she was like, come on, and give me some feedback. I'm like, but here's a good I did give her some feedback. I didn't, I didn't just be that much of a list. But the experience of staying connected and not running away, because I feel outraged at the injustice of a red pen, or anything else, right. And I'm kind of making a joke with the red pen. But I did

Erin Aquin  16:29  
red pen, it was just the delete button

Steve Haase  16:32  
to delete it so much. Sorry. But it's because I trusted where she was coming from. And I also knew that this stuff is hard. It's hard to say everything perfectly, it's hard to have your intentions come through with no flaws. Knowing that you're human, you're going to make all kinds of weird moves your partner's human, they're going to make all kinds of weird moves, and leaving space for it to still be okay, even in the middle of that is how you can have a good working relationship.

Erin Aquin  17:10  
I have so much to say. But I have for the for the sake of time. Yes. All of that. And I think one of the questions that I got when we were asked to do this, this as an episode was like some of the practical structure. So we're going to just share some of the structures that we use in our business to maintain those boundaries and borders between relationship us and working us. Even though you know, we're always just us. And our business is a spiritual practice. So it's actually very important that we aren't different people when we are working than we are in our life that takes so much energy, by the way, so if we don't do that anymore, I don't try to come off as Uber serious and polish unpolished because it's not me. And so I just want to talk a little bit about the structures that have supported us because we not only work together and live together co parents really still like each other. I hope I still like you. I don't know, maybe

Steve Haase  18:23  
no big reveals on the podcast.

Erin Aquin  18:26  
Maybe the book foo might never write a book again. Together. We'll see. We'll see. We'll do that with me. Mikey solo author,

Steve Haase  18:32  
the end product was worth it.

Erin Aquin  18:33  
The end product, please preorder it if you haven't pre ordered it, Superabound: live the life the universe is dreaming for you. Besuperabound.com/book I will never skip a chance to plug the book. It is so good. And Steve's sections that I worked with him on are so good. So you can just tell them how much better his writing is than mine.

Erin Aquin  19:00  
I won't be sad if you do. structures that make structures that make it work. We also work from home. So one of the very first things we did I don't expect like you don't have to go renovate your home and spend hundreds of 1000s of dollars like we did. But having dedicated working space has been really, really helpful. And when we let that slip, we start working and having meetings from our kitchen or from the living room and we're not in our office. I definitely feel things getting a little fuzzy and blurry. So structure number one is like actually have the physical space feel different. In another sort of same vein, like getting dressed for work. I try not to attend meetings with Steve in my yoga clothes. Even if I'm doing yoga for my membership I still get dressed up, I'm wearing my sweatshirt because I just got this brand new sweatshirt from a local maker. And I love it. And it's cozy and it's cold. So for this, it's fine. But I'm never going to show up on a day where I have clients with my hair undone and like just not ready. If I wouldn't show up for a client, I try not to show up for meeting in that same state. We also try to get out of our space, when we're doing bigger things like annual meeting, we go and take we did a two day retreat, stayed at a nice hotel, had beautiful food, brought the whiteboard did like a whole got a nice sweet, it was just like really a chance to dive deep with the focus being on the business while enjoying our time together.

Steve Haase  20:49  
Which brings me to one of my most high leverage structures. And that's meetings, you would think that, you know, it's your partner, you're talking about stuff all the time, but having a structure to when you have certain conversations, what you do with those takeaways, how you keep the momentum from those decisions, and keep things front of mind. It takes a certain amount of energy. And so when people hear that we did an annual planning for our business of two people where We're husband and wife that like really? Yes, we treat it like an actual business. And so I think that's

Erin Aquin  21:27  
an actual business. It's yeah, but just

Steve Haase  21:31  
because your business partner also happens to be your spouse doesn't mean you should treat it like a walk in the park. It should be it should have as much structure as it feels like it needs.

Erin Aquin  21:44  
Yeah, and talent calendar's. We are so we actually found out through doing a Colby assessment that we have really similar profiles and inherent ways of working. And interestingly, neither one of us scored very high on the section on follow through. But how I deal with that is I'm very structured. So my calendar, you would think that I'm very organized, you think that that is how my brain works. The truth is, if something does not go on my calendar, it does not happen in the world. So when, as a as a when something just pops into my mind. And I say, oh, Steve, next Tuesday, we have to get it out of there. We're going to launch it, oh, I have an idea for a retreat, we're going to launch our retreat for the summer, can we do it this day? Is that happens over lunch, it doesn't go into a Slack message. It doesn't go on to a calendar. I know I cannot hold this person. I've told accountable to that because it didn't happen within the structure of the business. So we do this for our life as well. Anything that's going on in our life goes on the calendar, something for the kids, it's on the calendar, you're going to an event, it's on the calendar. We don't spend a lot of time ever saying Wait, what do we have to do tomorrow? What day is it, none of that everything is really, really scheduled. And if it's something we have to talk about for logistics, fine. But you know, when I'm away this summer, I didn't have to talk to you about it. It's on the calendar, we you know, who's we know who picks up our kids from school every day, it's on the calendar. So I think you probably want to use that system of communication, not just as a placeholder for events, but actually as a way of cutting down the time wasted trying to resolve logistical issues, block it out on a calendar that you both share. So everyone can see what everyone else is up to.

Steve Haase  24:02  
And just to expand on that for a second. You mentioned systems of communication. Find the ones that work for you. We use Slack, we use Google Docs, we use our email inboxes. We use the calendar, those are the main ones. And if something does not live in one of those places, it's not really yet exist. Once it's real, it goes into a dock that has kind of the outline of things. Of course, we have systems that help us with our marketing and with the website. But all of those are going to be referenced within the calendar saying, review the past month, prepare the coming month. And so then that's how we bring our systems together. It's how we bring our business ideas together. And then it it kind of just feels like you step into this business context, which you do. And it just happens to be that your business partner is someone that you know love and trust.

Erin Aquin  25:01  
and it kind of brings me to maybe the last piece of important structures that we really do use because we have a lot of projects together, we have a podcast together, we have this book that we're writing much of our teaching much of our, our course, creation happens together. And then we each have our own private VIP clients and some projects that we do separately. But so much of what we do is done together, what we started to do was look through our weekly meeting through the lens of our roles within the company, so that when a contractor is working with us, they know who to talk to, for what they need. I don't really hear from our accountant too much, because Steve is the person that handles that. When one of my clients has an issue, they don't go try to find Steve, they know who to go through to get to me, or they know how to get to me directly. For our book project, Steve is the main point person, I'm copied on the emails, but Steve is really in charge of that communication. And that just helps so much, because there are two of us. But it doesn't mean that we both need to be involved in every single decision. We have to make decisions and perform tasks and do our jobs through the lens of our roles within the company. Not just like, here's a pile of shit we got to do, who's gonna do it? We're gonna divvy it up and figure it out this week? No, we each have clearly defined roles and clearly defined KPIs or expectations. And then we can collaborate on things, but we know who's in charge, and who talks to the accountant and who talks to the contractors. Yeah,

Steve Haase  26:50  
so many of the kind of standard business practices that you might think you can do away with, because you're just working with your partner, you're just gonna get it done. Turned out to be pretty helpful. Like, what is your role? What are you trying to achieve? How do we know that you're doing it? Well, not in a, I'm gonna put you on a pip and show you the door kind of way. But in a, how are we doing? Where do we need support? Where do we want to grow. And unless you lay out what it is that you want to be responsible for, and how you want to measure yourself, then there can't be any of that other conversation about how you can grow, how you can evolve. Yeah. And that just keep repeating. Yeah,

Erin Aquin  27:36  
part, thank you for such a great show. It's such a good show, I'm so glad I'm wearing this. It's also how things don't fall through the cracks. Unfortunately, we've seen a lot of family run businesses where people just like, don't do a job because nobody really wants to do it. And for whatever reason, they're not hiring the person that could do it. And then something important gets missed or forgotten. And that will cost your business, money loyal clients, so many things. So make sure you have all your bases covered. And if nobody in your family who you've hired wants to do a job tired out. Or, or, you know, maybe consider like, Is this actually a match, we're all trying to do the same thing. We haven't to be a business with two visionaries. And so when we want something done, that's when we use contract people, that is when one of us will just take up the torch of, of implementing a certain thing. But it isn't like our natural strength to do that. So it's just really good to know that I can't just come up with 10 ideas and throw them at Steve and expect him to somehow create them. And he can't do the same thing to me. We have to really pick and choose what is important what we're devoted to and what matters to be followed through on.

Steve Haase  29:05  
Yep. And what's interesting with that is, you don't need to have the perfect combination of personality traits in order to work together. If there's aligned vision, if there's respect, if there's a willingness to handle intense emotions without letting it destroy other parts of your relationship, communication, if you can exactly committed to communication, then you can both be a little flighty er than you would like or a little more detail oriented than you would like and there's room to flex into those other areas and support each other in those other parts of the business. Because

Erin Aquin  29:42  
at the end of the day, I mean for us, it's very fun. It's very fun to work together. It's very fun to create together. It's very fun to share this part of life which you know, we as humans, we spend a lot of time working probably. So if It's something that you're interested in, just make sure that you don't forget about structures that support you. Because you can absolutely do it. And it can be a beautiful part of your relationship. So we wish you good luck. And if you need help with this, I don't think your partner can be your coach. Just say that last thing

Steve Haase  30:22  
unless they're actually a master coach, and you know, you've kind of have that agreement. Don't be coaching each other. Yeah,

Erin Aquin  30:28  
yeah, we can help you. We are coaches and we would love to help support you. There's two of us so we can each coach, one person from your family. But yeah, unless that is something that is a skill set for you. It's really hard to get coached by the person who you maybe need coaching on.

Steve Haase  30:52  
Absolutely gets dicey little tricky, even for us. So if that's something that you're interested with us, you can go to besuperabound.com/consultation. We do have openings for more one on one VIP clients. We'd love to see you there.

Erin Aquin  31:09  
And we can't wait to talk to you again soon. Thanks for being here.