My son, Zack, and I operate our own financing company, where we provide clients both deposit and refinance loans. After reflecting on our most recent year in business, I thought to myself, “Are other people considering working with a family member but feeling concerned about what that might entail?” I’m sure you’ve heard numerous stories about families working together, but I’m here to tell you that it can be very rewarding – provided the tasks are approached in a clear-headed manner and the family members involved have a plan in place to manage expectations and avoid conflicts.
I formed Deposit Financing with two other partners back in 2017. At that time, Zack was working for First National as a fulfillment specialist. As the to-do list at Deposit Financing was quickly piled up, I began considering bringing someone else on board to help operate and grow the company with me. After approaching Zack, he decided to jump into this partnership with me without knowing what lay ahead.
We lived and worked under one roof in the beginning, and the majority of our time was consumed with developing ideas and strategies to grow our business. Being both Zack’s dad and his work partner brought some competing perspectives – and some communication challenges – to the table. (I fully admit that I have some attention span issues and work sporadically throughout the day; Zack tends to do the opposite.) Looking back, though, I wouldn’t change anything. Working with my son has gotten Deposit Financing where it is today. Our initial challenges soon evolved into solutions, allowing us to become partners and grow a successful business together.
If you’re considering working with a family member, there are a few things you should consider:
Have a plan for separating family affairs and business affairs. It's hard to be at a family event and not have business enter the conversation. Will you have a ‘no work talk’ agreement at outside events? (Good luck with that!)
Why are you working with a family member? This is an important question to answer. For me, doing so was an excellent opportunity to work with my son (and, of course, I thought the business would do well with him on board). When I was growing up, my dad ran a lumber yard where we worked together. He fired me a few times but always took me back. Nepotism has its benefits.
What’s your exit plan if things don't work out? Money (and money-related resentments) can be both the root of all evil and the ender of relationships. What’s your plan, as a team, if things unfortunately turn sour?
Make a business plan that plays to each other's strengths. Will there be a role where someone has the final say? If so, establish who that will be. Since I have been in the industry for more than 20 years and have built an extensive network of brokers, it was a clear choice for me to handle presentations and relationship-building. This allowed Zack to handle inquires and complete the tight turnarounds when we receive a file.
What are your expectations? There are so many areas that need to be discussed so that family members know what to expect of themselves and each other. Is one family member working elsewhere or pursuing a second career/side hustle? How many hours per day/week of work are being required? How will you communicate with each other? Will you be working together under one roof or remotely? How will you split the pay and ownership? How will you handle business conflicts? It’s important to sort through those conflicts productively and remember why you started this partnership in the first place. As the old saying goes, you can’t grow a garden without weeding it once in a while.
Despite the inevitable ups and downs, operating a family business has been an incredible experience for me and my son. If you’re contemplating working with a family member and have more questions about our experience, don’t hesitate to reach out. As mortgage brokers, we’re all one big family.
Neil M. Beaumont and his son, Zack, are partners at Deposit Financing, a BC-based lending company that helps people gain access to their home equity before their sale or refinance completes. He can be reached at [email protected]