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Working with family

How hard is it to work with a loved one? We speak to six people who do exactly that to find out how to make it work.

 

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Carina and Victor Contini

Victor and Carina Contini have known each other for over 35 years. Their parents dated once in the 1950s but, luckily for them, Victor's mum thought Carina's dad was too nice. They celebrate their 17th wedding anniversary this year and have three children aged, 9, 7 and 5. Together they own and run Centotre, Zanzero and Scottish Café restaurants.

What's the best part of working with a loved one?
You can enjoy the good times together and have someone to share the hard times and difficult decisions with.

What's the most challenging?
It doesn't happen often but when work comes before family it can be very challenging.

How do disagreements or disappointments affect your personal relationship?
When you've been married as long as we have, you learn to get over it. We both carry gripes far less than we did when we were younger. You also learn 'what's the point of winning the point?' – especially when you were right anyway.

Do you stick up for each other at work?
Never. The team will tell you we fight all the time. Lara (general manager at Centotre) sometimes has to act as referee!

How do you manage the work/life balance?
When the children are off school we always try to get away, even for just a few days. It's only when we're away that we know we just have to leave it to the team. Generally, we bring work home. When work is food it's easy. We love feeding our family and friends. Our dining room table is set for 14 minimum – always.

What advice would you give to anyone considering working with a loved one?
If you know and accept your strengths and weaknesses, you can't go wrong.

Describe each other as a work partner/spouse
Victor: In work, Carina is opinionated, creative and determined to getthe job done. As a wife, she's my soul mate. She's a fantastic cook and mother to our children. That's why I love her.
Carina: Victor's like the cavalry. Whenever there's a problem in work, we send him in. He's our secret weapon. He's also my best friend. He makes the things I do, better.

 

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Theresa O'Hara and Maria Bauermeister

Dubliners Theresa O'Hara and Maria Bauermeister are best friends who set up a business together. Most people assume that they're old school friends but the pair met here in Edinburgh whilst working in a boutique in the West End. Having spotted a gap in the shoe market, they opened Ooh! Ruby Shoes in Bruntsfield in 2008.

What's the best part of working with a friend?
We can really talk and are constantly bouncing new ideas off each other. As friends working together, honesty is the best policy. We know each other inside out so if there is a problem, there's no hiding it.

And what's the most challenging?
We opened in February 2008 just as the words 'credit crunch' began to surface. It's been an uphill battle but we are a great support to one another and, thankfully, we both possess good senses of humour so when it gets tough, we try to rise above all the stress and not get too wound up.

Do you stick up for each other at work?
Of course, as co-owners, we have each other's backs.

Do you find it easy to switch back to being 'friends' after work?
We have no problems here. We still see each other after hours and grab lunch every now and then whenever we can. As friends, it's the odd trip to a spa that works for us though, usually after all the buying is done in Milan.

What advice would each of you give to anyone considering going into business with a friend? 
Be honest with each other from day one. Starting a business is a huge commitment in itself and working with a friend can be almost like entering a marriage. Communication is key.

Describe each other as a work partner/friend.
Theresa: Maria is passionate, hard-working, vivacious and committed, with a great sense of humour. I know she's always there for me.
Maria: Tenacious, multi-skilled, committed and loyal. As a friend Theresa's always caring and generous. She's a true gem.

 

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Garreth and Nic Wood

Since starting their business Signature Pub Group, Garreth and Nic Wood are closer now than they have ever been. As well as working together, the brothers holiday together, regularly meet up for dinner and spend time with their wider family. In Edinburgh they own various bars and restaurants including Element, Rutland, Queen's Arms and Black Bull.

What's the best part of working with a brother?
We are on a similar wavelength. We trust each other implicitly and always have each other's back. If we go to each other for advice or feedback, we know we'll get a very honest answer.

And what's the most challenging?
Occasionally, being patient with each other. As siblings the tendency is to speak first, think after and in a business environment that has to be reversed.

How do disagreements at work affect your personal relationship?
Disagreements are very rare – when they arise they are always resolved quickly. Anyway, our wives get on very well so they would bang our heads together if we took any nonsense home.

Do you find it easy to switch back to being 'family' after work?
It's doesn't matter what is happening at work, it's easy to revert to being family men when we're not in the office. We try not to talk about the business too much when at home... but with four children between the two of us, it's impossible to have too many of those conversations anyway.

What advice would you give to anyone considering going into business with a sibling? 
For us, it works well as there are clear and natural boundaries because of the different businesses and our different skills set. For some people it is no doubt impossible.

Describe each other as a work partner/brother.
Garreth: At Work, Nic's hard working, dedicated and trustworthy. At home, he's a family man first and foremost.
Nic: Professionally, Garreth's committed, full of ideas and enthusiastic. He lives life to the full.

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