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Not all of us can stand going on a holiday with family, much less work with them. But there are some among us who can not only run a business with a sibling, but also do so with great success.
They include sisters Race, 38, and Rhonda Wong, 35, who founded property technology company Ohmyhome in 2016; and sisters Sophia, 34, and Nadia Chan, 32, who founded a company that distributes Australian beauty brand CANVAS in Singapore.
“Rhonda and I have perfect synergy. We can be very honest with each other as we know our strengths and are not afraid to admit our weaknesses. This honesty enables us to dive deep into the core problems we face at work and confide in each other,” says Race, who is the Chief Product Officer. Rhonda is the Chief Executive Officer of the company.
That’s not to say that they don’t have disagreements—they just make sure these challenges don’t get the better of them by sticking to a few basic rules.
1. Work out your business compatibility beforehand
Rhonda: “There are some things you can do with your sibling before starting a business together. You can discuss scenarios that challenge your values system, your respective definitions of success, and the commitment the both of you would put into the business both in terms of time and money. It’s also important to talk about what giving up looks like. If you’re already arguing during these discussions, don’t start a business together!”
2. Don’t take things personally
Race: “It’s important to keep calm during heated discussions and carry out self-reflection after. We don’t like to push the blame to each other and instead find ways to improve on how we can better communicate our opinions. As leaders, we need to set good examples of how we want our office culture to be and no screaming and shouting are tolerated at Ohmyhome. Resolving conflicts is essential to maintaining a non-toxic work environment.”
3. Respect the department head’s authority
Rhonda: “Sure, we fight for our respective ideas and sometimes the other party will say, ‘That’s a good point’ and concede. But other times, there’s no clear conclusion and we leave it to whoever is the head of the department to have the final say.”
4. Make sure that the both of you share a common goal
Race: “Having a sibling who has persistence and grit is crucial as it can be tempting to throw in the towel when the going gets tough. Rhonda and I started Ohmyhome with a common goal and this goal has helped us work well together because the goal is above any individual.”
As for Sophia and Nadia, they have separate day jobs, so they see running a business together as a means to remain close.
“Sophia and I also no longer live together, so running a business together allows us to spend more time with each other, discuss our vision and decide where we want to go as a team,” explains Nadia. To them, it’s important to do the following.
5. Agree to disagree
Nadia: “I think the greatest challenge in running Maiko together is overcoming our different views and focusing on what’s best for the business. It’s not always easy but we strive to accept that each of us holds a different opinion and build consensus over our differences.”
6. Give and take
Nadia: “We take on each other’s responsibilities. Sophia is away quite often as her husband is based in Japan, which means I carry out stock control and fulfilling orders alone during those times. However, when I have the busiest of days, she’d usually hold the fort.”
7. Don’t bring up the past
Sophia: “Both of us usually voice our opinions on why we feel something should or should not be done in a certain way. Sure, there are moments of frustration but we usually sleep on it and come to a compromise quite quickly. Once we come to an agreement, it no longer is a topic of discussion.”