Siblings As Business Partners: The Co-Founders Of Dubai-Based Closed Captions Communications Explain How To Make It Work

Siblings As Business Partners: The Co-Founders Of Dubai-Based Closed Captions Communications Explain How To Make It Work

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This article was co-written with Serge Trad, co-founder, Closed Captions Communications.

Ever find yourself facing your sibling(s) and going, “So, I guess we’re building a company together?”

At least that’s what happened with us- a tech and business journalist who boasts of a creative talent with words, and her older brother who had mastered the marketing plane of the F&B sector and developed a particular affinity to birthing daring brands- who are now the proud co-founders of Dubai-based branding studio Closed Captions Communications.

We’ve been brother and sister for 30 years but business partners for only four months- and the number of vulnerable, aggravating, and heart-to-heart discussions and conversations that we’ve had in the first couple of months of signing the company into legal officiality has been heavy. Indeed, it’s one thing to read articles and books on how to run a business and partner up with your sibling, but another to find yourself in the middle of the exercise.

That said, family works well together, if boundaries and pre-set agreements are respected by all parties involved.

You can either end up like the entrepreneurs behind Adidas and Puma, two brothers who started out together but then went their separate ways, or like those behind the Walt Disney Company, a global success that has the name of the younger, more creative brother, Walt, while the elder, Roy, led the business side. Sure, both of the above examples involve business success stories– but who among them managed to keep a happy family life too?

Long story short, it’s not all about the money, nor is it solely about family- instead, there needs to be a funambulist balance created between those who choose to go down this route. From our personal experience in this domain, here are a few key practices, principles, and foundations that are nice to remember and implement when considering your sibling(s) as your business partner(s):

Related: The Pros And Cons Of Starting A Business In The UAE

1. Resolve any unfinished issues you might have with each other, and establish clear, frequent communication. As siblings, the connection you have lasts more than any other relationship in your life- it usually outlives the parent-child relationship, and is forever longer than that with one’s spouse or partner. But with that comes a lot of baggage which can start all the way from childhood, and so, it’s advisable to have honest conversations and tackle unresolved issues before venturing into business together to avoid the blame game (personally and professionally), as well as negative emotions in the future. That said, on a personal level, therapy is, in general, a good idea to tackle your own inner demons and unanswered questions before quitting your job and jumping into serious business with or without a family member.

It’s also always preferable to never let the sun go down on your anger, especially if it’s going with you to your home, and then back to the office the next day. Apparently, the magic ratio to a healthy relationship is 5:1– for every one negative feeling/interaction between partners, there must be five positive ones. As such, keep an open communication with your sibling, make it frequent, and hold nothing back. They’re your family, at the end of the day, and they will remain long after your business blooms or dies.

2. Decide on what your shared goal is, and agree on common values. You and your business partner better have the same dream for which you’ve decided to put in the time and effort into a venture together. Some good questions to ask yourselves would be: how can we benefit from doing business together? What is business ownership to each of us, and how do we define success? What are our common values, goals, and vision, for our business and its success?

Remember here that the company is just as much yours as that of others, whether you have partners and investors, or are looking at your customers and their needs as the main reason for why your business exists. To dig a little deeper into the “why?” of your venture, define your reasoning behind building a company. Is it an extension of you? A baby you want to nurture and/or control? Your way of escaping orders from supervisors at your current job? Yes, business is about the psyche, too.

3. Know your strengths/weaknesses, allocate responsibilities, and create fair compensations based on merit. Ego is the destroyer of worlds; we don’t like it when it gets cocky and toxic. Any human can detect what they’re particularly good at, and what they are yet to master (if ever), and that’s a needed exercise for when going into a partnership. Who’s good at what? Who will handle the financial side and who’s responsible for marketing and sales?

Play to your strengths, and allow your sibling to play to theirs- a smart advice we got from an entrepreneur who’s been down this road before. Leverage each other’s unique talents and skills, and make sure compensation is always fair based on merit and market research- and this applies to the employees you will hire too.

4. Revel in the experience both inside and outside of the office. You’re family as well as partners, which means business talk will happen during family reunions, casual hangouts with common friends, and at the meeting table with your employees. It’ll be awkward to be on different pages with your own sibling, or indirectly ask your employees to take sides- no one wants to be part of that energy, so avoid it altogether by simply finding ways to get along.

Any healthy relationship has trust and respect at its core, and yours should radiate that to outsiders. Come up with ways to enjoy each other’s company away from the office, whether through vacationing together, or going on family weekend retreats. This bond will naturally seep into your business partnership, and hopefully nurture it into success.

Related: Five Tips For Achieving Co-Founder Alignment

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