Making Family Work at Home and In the Office

The Kardashian’s do it. Brad and Angelina do it. Mark Consuelos and Kelly Ripa do it. The seven dwarves did it (they are brothers, correct?). Working with family is nothing new. People do it all the time. Diane Omdahl and Melinda Caughill do it. This mother/daughter duo took their professional working relationship a step further than mom’s the boss (isn’t she always?) and co-founded 65 Incorporated together in 2012. Together, they help to make understanding Medicare easy. Of course, it wouldn’t have been a difficult decision to make to go into business together considering the fact that Diane is, quite simply, a genius. Seeing as how this information came straight from Melinda, Diane’s daughter and business partner, it’s safe to assume Diane really is a genius. After all, most of you have plenty of adjectives for your own mom, but I’m willing to bet genius doesn’t top the list.

In an economy where job security is about as common as a Taylor Swift song that isn’t about one of her ex-boyfriends, many of you have expressed an interest in starting your own family business. Something that provides you not only with job security, but a way of bringing your family closer together and maybe even leaving behind a little something to ensure your kids’ future will be bright.

Diane and Melinda are a successful example of what happens when family works together (not that the Kardashian’s aren’t successful, but you know what I mean). Despite the dynamic duo’s obvious love and respect of one another in both the business sense and in their personal lives, both Diane and Melinda agree that with the good comes the bad, and they have some advice for those of you looking to start a business with your own families.

You Learn Every Day

Melinda learned most of what she knows about business and working with family from her mom and dad after watching them balance their professional and personal lives from the time she was a child. Melinda remembers when Diane started her first company. She was 12-years-old when Diane, an RN and Medicare expert, started her first business, Beacon Health, in the family basement. Three successful years later, Melinda’s dad left his job as an executive to join his wife’s company. Melinda remembers listening to her parents discuss business in the car while vacationing and around the dinner table. Today, she is not only the co-founder of 65 Incorporated; she also runs another business with her husband. In fact, she finds that many of their business strategies and ideas come from conversations that culminate during family time. When you work with family, you can’t help but learn something about how it works on a daily basis.

Business Conflict Happens

When Diane hired Melinda to work with her, and again when they cofounded 65 Incorporated, both women knew that employee discord was not out of the question. You see it all the time in books and movies when the president’s son gets a corporate expense account, corner office, and splashy title despite the fact that he doesn’t know the difference between their, there, and they’re. Other employees of the company believe he gets special treatment (obviously, in this case) and thus begins the conflict within the company. Diane and Melinda were not immune to this aspect of business, and they’re not surprised. According to Diane, Melinda worked hard to graduate college, do her job with excellence and care, and so what if she gets a little special treatment from time to time; that’s her daughter and that’s her right as a mom. One thing is certain with this mother/daughter team, however, and that’s that Melinda doesn’t need special treatment to advance in her career; she’s intelligent, personable, and self-deprecating when it comes to admitting she’s not the genius her mother is (though I’m inclined to disagree).

Diane and Melinda handled the issue of “Special Treatment” with ease, which was to explain to the company that it is a family business, and anyone who doesn’t care to work with family was free to grab their belongings and go (in a tone that was slightly more professional).

Separating Family from Business is Sometimes Necessary

Melinda knows that any other business partner would have no idea what’s in her purse (which is, by the way, nothing; muggers take note) but since her partner is her mom, she does. This is just one example of the many ways working with family differentiates from working with others, and one way Melinda separates business from family in the office is by referring to her mom as Diane when she’s talking business, and mom when she’s talking personally.

Perks of Being in Business with Family

Working with family isn’t all overcoming special treatment rumors and confusing others who thought your mom was your mom but now aren’t sure because you’re referring to her by her first name. There are big perks to working with family. For one, you get to see each other all the time (now is the time to reconsider starting a family business for those of you who can’t remember a holiday dinner that didn’t end in a fight). Secondly, there’s always someone around to help you when you need it. For example, if your child needs to go home early from school, you know one of you will be able to clear your schedule enough to go get him. Business trips are a lot more fun with family (unless they’re not; look for a future article detailing reasons why some people just shouldn’t work together).

Finally, the help is cheap. Need photos for your webpage? Hire your family; they work for hugs, according to Diane and Melinda. Need something to do with your kids for an hour after they leave soccer practice and you go home from the office? Put them to work shredding old documents or vacuuming—and hope they know nothing about child labor laws.

No one will tell you starting your own business is simple, but for those of you who have the know-how and panache to become successful business owners you will find out that the hard work and dedication are worth it. Diane and Melinda aren’t perfect, but they’ve perfected the art of working together both personally and professionally, whether it’s around the Thanksgiving table or in the boardroom. Take a page from their book (they’d make the New York Times Best-Sellers list in no time with a book telling the rest of the world how to get their daughters to refer to them as genuis’) and use their advice to your advantage.


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