Every dealership manager spends time, effort, and energy training team members and the effort benefits both parties with increased sales and profits.  Pretty straightforward, yes? What happens when the manager and the employee are related? What is to be expected in that scenario? I can speak from first-hand experience as one who was trained by my father and brother as well as having trained my sister, brothers and daughter.  To say the least, the rules of the road are considerably different. Emotions run high and everyone is watching.

In my situation, my father was more like a mentor and was always available to offer guidance and thoughtful insights that helped me understand the overall business.  He taught me how to look at the big picture, be prepared for business challenges and encourage our team to perform at their best. My brother, on the other hand, was responsible for my day-to-day sales performance and he had to be more focused on my actions and skillset.

Admittedly, I was usually trying to please my dad, but in retrospect, I would say I was an ongoing challenge for my brother to manage and did not try to make things easy for him.  With my dad, I knew from home that it was not appropriate to talk back to him, but it was considerably different with my brother who had to involve my father often to smooth things out when we disagreed.  Additionally, my oldest brother managed me and a couple of brothers at the same time and we never were easy to train or coach.

Fortunately, my co-workers were also good at recognizing the unique circumstances of family working together. They were free with their opinions on how I should try harder to listen to my brother during training for the good of the overall sales team.  This really opened my eyes and made me appreciate the impact of our family behavior on the dealership team. Had I not had great co-workers who understood and appreciated the situation, I don’t think we would have been as successful as we were.

When my opportunity came to manage my brothers and sisters, I realized that payback was a ____.  I quickly recognized in them the same behaviors I had exhibited when my brother tried to train and coach me.  Talking louder was not the solution; it had to be respectful and balanced or the dealership team would not appreciate the outcome.  I always used to say out loud to family members, why can’t you be like your teammates and go along with my guidance? I recall my brother saying the same thing to me.  It’s just different.

What I found to work the best was engaging with my family before I met with the whole team to ensure they understood my intentions. That way,  when I trained and coached the team, they knew what was coming and were not caught off guard. It worked great to be open with them and allowed us to be on the same page and this provided a better overall learning situation for the team.

Now, turn the clock forward several years and when working with my wife, Eve, who is also my business partner and office manager, there is a whole new set of rules.  First off, I have learned that the same open dialogue I had with other family members when working at the dealership is essential in our training and consulting business.  We both appreciate what makes us unique in our skillsets and when I realize and remember this key element, before training on a new technology, things go smoothly. However, when I try to be the boss, and disrespect the partnership, the bumps appear and I lose perspective.  Fortunately, being married since 1984 helps us to both appreciate that we both have the best intentions even if I often need a better script.

When it comes to training and coaching my daughter, Jessica, I am learning every day. She is smart, capable, and confident and appreciates open dialogue. She also is free with her opinion, which is just like how I was with my dad, but his role was much different because my brother was my direct manager, so dad got to be the wise advisor.  In my daughter’s case, I am also her supervisor, teammate and collaborator. We have learned over the years that the kinder and more respectful we are, the better the outcome. She is better at this than I am, but I am learning.

So, is it different training and coaching family? ABSOLUTELY!  Is it rewarding working with someone you spend so much time with outside of work and love above all?  DEFINITELY! Do your co-workers see everything and yet understand the challenges of balancing passionate feelings?  I HOPE SO! All in all, after having worked with family members every day for 33 out of 36 years, I am getting better, but I am still not an expert.  However, I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s been a blessing to spend so much time with my family while doing what I love.

If you’d like to share your own experience, please send me a note to david@kainautomotive.com.

Hope you enjoyed the article and if I can ever assist you on your business journey, please reach out.

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