Can I make improvements to our family small business or should I just give up now?

Hi Aunty B,

My husband and I have a small business (similar to a franchise) in which my brother owns the parent company. As you can probably imagine, I had some big reservations about going into business with family. As it is really my husband’s business and I have a fulltime job which keeps me very busy, I just help out from time to time and have very little involvement.

Over the last four to six months my brother has been asking for my advice on the business web site and other marketing materials (I work in web development and marketing and communications) but has shot down most of my suggestions.

It is a trade business and he is exceptionally good at what he does, however his promotion/advertising ideas are pretty poor and he constantly targets people who you would expect to have excellent industry knowledge, not potential customers.

I want to improve the way the business is marketed as my husband is involved and this is our future. If it was just my brother asking for advice then I’d say “here’s my advice and do with it what you will” and move on, but I feel that I need to get some points across so that our company appears as professional and polished as possible.

My husband has openly supported my suggestions and commented that this is my “area of expertise”, but my brother is stubborn and (I feel) quite short-sighted when it comes to the management side of the business. I understand the business is his “baby” but things would be so much better if he focuses on what he does best and let other people use their strengths.

Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated.


Dear AC,

Oh, you are way too nice. He’s your brother – of course he will ask and then disregard your advice. That’s what most brothers do! Look at the way he still dresses, for goodness sakes.

So it’s time to get tough. First of all, immediately stop giving him suggestions. When he asks, point out in the nicest possible way that you feel he is not taking your advice. Tell him you value the brother/sister relationship far more than the silly business, which does put food on the table and pay for his petrol, but hey!! Give him the name of a professional marketing firm and web development firm and urge him to call them.

(Hopefully he will use them and that will be the end of your problems.)

But let’s assume he doesn’t, ‘cause he’s a dill and still goes to that dreadful barber and then boasts about how cheap his hair cuts are.

At the next family get together, regale him with stories about how many sales your brilliant marketing strategy is bringing in. And every time he asks you for advice, give him a sad look and tell him how much you value your sibling relationship. Hold your nerve. Then when he caves, tell him you will only provide advice in a professional manner. He must pay for it – (OK, give him a discount). Then he must implement it.

Then, because you are on a roll, do not succumb and tell him you still hate his haircut.

Good luck,

Your Aunty B.


Aunty B - Your problems answered by SmartCompany's business bitch

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