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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 Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

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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