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The Basics

January 21, 2010

Why Family And Business Don’t Mix

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The people you surround yourself with can keep you from reaching greatness or they can be the one thing that keeps you grounded. Here’s what happens if you don’t know

the difference:

Duffy went from a film deal with Harvey Weinstein and gracing magazine covers to has-been in record time.

His downfall?  1. Smelling his own piss. (Believing his own press) 2. Mixing friends and family with business.

The problem with hiring family or friends in the entertainment business is two-fold:

Emotional attachment: It is impossible to make smart creative and business decisions when emotion is involved.  You need to be able to step back.  Separate yourself from the situation and look at things objectively and make the call without flinching.   If your mom is managing your career and is obviously in over her head how do you tell her to buzz off?  Answer is don’t hire her in the first place.  I’m a parent.  If my kid is kicking butt at something I’d want him  to have the best person possible to make sure he’s on the right track.  Doesn’t mean I can’t check in on them here and there.  There’s a fine line between concern and interference.

Family and friends want to protect you.  I get it.  But the ‘you’ they have known all these years will have to evolve significantly in order to face the temptations and challenges of succeeding in this business.  Learn to separate the ‘old home you’ from the ‘work you’.  They need to let go of the old you and give you room to grow. Your past can either propel you to success or hold you back.   My past is nothing to brag about (it’s actually pretty horrible) but it is also my biggest advantage because to hide it is fake and won’t hold up in the long term.  Keep your eyes on the prize.

NOTE: If you happen to hate your family’s guts then consider yourself at an advantage.  Chances are they won’t be working for you anyway so skip this bit.

Maybe your family gives you useful input.  Great. But you need to know where to draw the line. If you are among the lucky few who have a competent team of professionals with your best interest at heart working their butts off for you there is no need to jeopardize that relationship by second-guessing their guidance. The very nature of growing your brand and an intricate part of any  major career evolution is that it has to be broken down in order to be built back up.

Expectations: I am closer to my friends than I am with most of my family.  My buddy from Tops In Blue was the best man at my wedding.  Would I hire him to manage my career or affairs?  Nope.  And he doesn’t expect me to.  A lot of the business decisions you’ll have to make may be what’s best for your career but not in the best interest of your friendship.  The phrase ‘we started this together’ is a slippery slope so beware of people who are hanging on to your coat tails with this sly form of guilt.  You don’t owe anybody a damn thing.  And the world doesn’t owe you anything either. When you hire an industry professional who may not know you but is passionate about your work everybody starts on even ground.  Someone who doesn’t know you takes you at face value and all their decisions are clear and transparent.  They’re not afraid to piss you off, and you’re not afraid to give them a piece of your mind.  This is how business relationships work, as long as you don’t start talking about each other’s mamas you’ll make lots of money together and enjoy a successful career.

With success comes a lot of guilt which we’ll cover in another post.  Remember that the sacrifices your family and friends have made to support you on your journey don’t come with strings attached.  Thank them by being successful and never forgetting where you came from.  And mention in your awards acceptance speech.  (kidding)

It’s Showbusiness.  Not ShowFriends.

-Kahlil Ashanti,

I know there are some successful family/friends situations out there but it’s very rare.  Agree or Disagree? Is it working for you?  Share your secrets!   We’re here to shed as much light on this subject as possible.  ReTweet, Facebook, and share this post.  Let’s keep the dialogue going!

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  1. Great post, Kahlil!

    Comment by Eran - The Quarterlife Quest — January 21, 2010 @ 2:30 pm
  2. I believe I’m in one of those rare, successful friend/family/business partnerships. While it has worked for us (and it has been work!), we definitely recognize the pitfalls of the balancing act of business and personal relationships. Clearly identifying these challenges is probably half the battle. Approach the business side of things like a full contact team sport…what happens on the ice stays on the ice…even if someone occasionally takes a hard hit in the heat of the moment. :)

    Comment by Lorraine — January 21, 2010 @ 9:05 pm
  3. I disagree with most of this. Family can work in business very well. Depends on the family. I have professionals in key positions, but would not overlook a family member for a key position if they have the qualifications. You can get screwed over very badly by people who want to use you and have no use for you after you are done. There are many family teams that have gone on to enormous success. The Cohen Brothers, The Disney Brothers, Burns and Allen, The Baldwins, Billy Ray and Miley Cyrus. The list goes on. Then there are friends, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, The Beatles, Steely Dan, Many acts are friends and family. And each situation is different. I would trade the years on the road with my Son and my Wife for anything. it has kept my home life together while I was an absentee Dad.

    Comment by Dan Dunn — January 23, 2010 @ 7:31 am
  4. Very true Lorraine, thanks for pointing out the contact team sport analogy. Very relevant. The fact that you’re aware of the challenges and handle them well says a lot about you and your career speaks for itself. Continued success in all you do!

    Comment by admin — January 26, 2010 @ 7:59 am
  5. Thanks for the post Mr Dunn, being a Dad is definitely the most important gig on the books. Not sure where the Baldwins and the Cohen brothers etc fit in with the family business analogy but your comments and insights are appreciated.

    Comment by admin — January 26, 2010 @ 8:02 am
  6. –; I am very thankful to this topic because it really gives up to date information ;~”

    Comment by Gear Knobs — January 24, 2011 @ 2:48 pm

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