Doing business with your sibling can put both your company and your family at risk, but it can also become the trigger to success.
Mercedes and Elena Zubizarreta, siblings and co-founders of ZUBI, created a capsule collection of printed bags in 2012 and immediately turned it into a successful brand. Everything about ZUBI seems to tell a family story, the company is named after Elena and Mercedes´s surname (Zubizarreta) and every bag is made from a photo taken by them. Each image evokes an experience or family memory and the bags are named after the place where the photograph was shot. When receiving the bags customers will also find a little note that include the GPS coordinates of the place where the picture was taken as well as the story of what that picture means to both sisters.
Working in completely different areas, Elena in marketing and Mercedes in interior design, they both wanted to start something together. After just three years, they agree that it has been the best thing they’ve ever done. They state that part of their accomplishment is due to quick decision-making and 100% alignment, and making the most out of the sibling bond. ¨We love and take care of each other, together we are stronger and feel we are able to overcome every obstacle¨, says Elena.
The sibling startups that end up succeeding, say experts from the Family Business Consulting Group, tend to have partners like the Mercedes and Elena; people who are aligned on core values and priorities and share a deep understanding and trust. You’ve already spent decades together in a variety of situations that give you enough information to judge nature and disposition so unfortunate surprises will probably decrease. You inherently know and trust your sibling more than anyone else in the world. As you probably understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses better than anybody, you are able to make the most out of them and established a partnership with the potential to make great things happen.
But this also can turn against you and your business. Everyone with a brother or sister knows that the sibling bond is often complicated, the knowledge you have of each other can allow you to poke your sibling in the most irritating ways. Whatever roles and rivalries were present in your childhood are likely to return, especially in high-pressure situations. Not an ideal method of working with a business partner. Unless you follow strict communication protocols and ground rules. ¨We try to have some extra delicacy in our professional conversations, differentiating them from the personal ones¨ says Elena.
Being aware that the risks of partnering with a sibling are real and hard to overcome Mercedes and Elena established some ground rules that worked for them, ¨no more family involved, especially no significant others (husband, boyfriend…), sincerity, hard work and compromise.”
When asked if anybody recommends them not to mix work with family they laugh. “At the beginning some people made this kind of comments, but when you start arguing the pros that be sisters has they just understand it and feel jealous.”
Words by Pia Jimenez-Espuelas Calderon
Image by Azahara Fernandez