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The danger of mixing business and family

A couple weeks ago, I was outside of my school’s gym waiting for the last student to get picked up after basketball practice (there’s always that one last kid…), when a retired school employee (that I’ve never met) came up to talk to me. After a couple minutes he pointed towards the soccer field and said, “You see that guy out there. I hate his guts, that [insert favorite curse word].”

First of all, I was shocked that a guy I barely knew was even telling me these things about another stranger. To make things worse, he then tells me that the guy is his brother, his blood brother.

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: two brothers go in together on an investment, one does the other dirty, and now they can’t stand each other. It’s pretty easy to imagine that this could happen with any two people that invest money together, but brothers?

I guess it’s just another example of why business and family shouldn’t mix.

To be fair, all of us can probably name plenty of examples of family businesses that have worked out. On paper it sounds like a great idea: if you’re going to start a business or invest some money in something, wouldn’t you rather do it with someone that you love and trust? And when it works, it works out really great. Your favorite taqueria or Latino grocery store is probably family-owned and operated and they seem to be doing fine (at least on the outside).

But what about when it doesn’t work out? If mixing business and family doesn’t work out, the risks can definitely outweigh the rewards. Take my example of the two brothers. It’s bad enough that two people that were probably extremely close now hate each other, but the unfortunate reality is that the rest of their family has to bear the burden of their strained relationship.

And for a culture that places such a high value on family, that’s a pretty big deal. The children of those two men may have been really close cousins that may now be discouraged to go to each other’s homes. Family holidays will no doubt be awkward, assuming that they still exist. And if you invite one brother over for dinner, you probably can’t invite the other, and vice-versa.

With the boom of Latino businesses (Latino-owned businesses are growing at more than twice the national average), it’s logical to believe that many of them would involve family partnerships. So if you’re thinking about starting a business or investing some money with a family member, make sure you know what you’re getting into.

And remember that a relationship with a family member is very different than any other relationship. If things go bad with just anyone, you might have the luxury of never seeing them again. But if a business venture with a family member fails and leads to a strained relationship, the constant reminder will always be there.

About Cristopher Rubio

Cris was born in McAllen, Texas to a Mexican mother and Salvadoran father. A well-rounded student and basketball player in high school, Cris attended the University of Texas at Austin. As an undergrad, Cris was highly involved with various student organizations in the Latino community, including Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity, Inc. He credits many of the people he met during this time with helping him realize his passion for equality and social justice.

After graduating with a B. A. in Mathematics, Cris was selected as a 2007 Teach for America Corps member in Atlanta, Georgia. He taught high school mathematics for three years in southwest Atlanta. In 2010, he enrolled at the University of Georgia to pursue a Master’s Degree in Educational administration and Policy. Although he has a passion for education, he’s just as passionate about writing, especially when it involves his community. He wishes he could spend less time watching basketball, fútbol, football, boxing and rooting for his beloved Arsenal, but some things can’t be helped.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.

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