Lessons I’ve Learned Working with Family

Lessons I’ve Learned Working with Family

By Jason Carpenter – 

People often ask me how it is to work with my wife. I always say working with her is the easy part, the hard part is working with our children. When I started Environmental Pest Management 18 years ago, I had no idea it would become a family business, heck, I just wanted to be my own boss. Today, we have 42 employees and are the largest family-owned pest control company in Central Ohio.

I’d like to tell you that I’ve been the mastermind behind our business, but you guys know the truth—it’s my wife Karen that runs the company, and I’m just along for the ride. Well, not exactly, but I’ve learned that we each have different skill sets that allow us to achieve our goals. And it’s taken us a long time to get where we are today.

Below are a few lessons I would like to share with you about what I’ve learned while working with family.

  1. Don’t be afraid to get help. Over the years, my wife and I have had several key partners help navigate our business/family life. In my experience we found Amy Armstrong with The Center of Family Resolution to be the perfect fit to fix my wife, I mean, help me understand my own short-comings.
  2. If you have children in the business, make sure you have clear expectations. In our case, our eldest sons are involved in the company, while our youngest daughter is just finishing up high school. The older two understand their roles and our expectations of them. We have it all written down to help verify and document what we are trying to accomplish.
  3. Utilize the Conway Family Business Center. I wish I had found out about this group a few years earlier than I did, because it’s been a game-changer for me, personally. We have leveraged many of their resources like mentorship, leadership development, and CEO peer groups.
  4. Understand how to best work with your spouse. In our case, we learned that it’s best for me to work from home as much as possible. It’s difficult to work with your spouse day in and day out, and we have found that giving each other some space helps limit disagreements. Plus, I’m pretty sure my wife would kill me if I was in the office every day poking around.
  5. Learn how to best communicate with your spouse. We recently came across a software called upBOARD. This allows us to communicate business AND family matters that are important. I can’t tell you how many times my wife has said, “I talked to you about this last week.” Now, it’s written down in a working agenda and we solve the issues together. Another game-changer.
  6. Share the “end game” with your children. Some folks will disagree with me on this, and that’s okay. I’ve found that by sharing our vision for retirement with our children, they have a better understanding of what we are trying to achieve and what their roles are. Ask me in a few years, and I’ll tell you if it was a bad idea or not.
  7. Hug your family. I’m guilty of doing this quite a bit, and yes, I do it in front of the employees. They don’t seem to mind—it makes them feel like part of our family.