“So, what’s it like working with your sister?”
We are asked this A LOT, so we thought we’d put down our answer in writing (which also serves the purpose of reminding our future selves that we did once work well together. Just kidding, we think it’ll always be great.) Usually we write our blog posts separately, but this is a special joint effort! Hopefully the lack of sisterly screaming matches won’t be a disappointment…We got all of those out of the way in our teens.
We’ve been able to be more vulnerable and transparent about our aspirations and fears. We’ve been able to ask for support (practical or emotional) when we need it.
The Best Parts
Kathryn: By far the best bit for me is that it gives us a reason to talk almost every day. We don’t live in the same place so it’s good that we can’t let communication drop. I think the reason it works well is that we have very complementary skills and areas of expertise. It’s clear who is in charge of what and where we need to collaborate so there’s never misunderstanding. It also helps that we communicate in exactly the same way – definitely makes everything much more efficient. The other thing I think works well is that we seem to take it in turns to be the motivator – if one of us is having a “oh my god we started a company based around gathering very shortly before a global pandemic” week, the other one is usually having a “we’re going to completely transform the way the world works” kind of week.
Sarah: Firstly, ditto to everything Kathryn said (top secret: I call her Katy IRL, shh).
I would say that even though we’ve now not lived in the same city for over 3 years, we’ve never been closer. It would be pretty strange to go a day without communicating at all, unless one of us is having a digi-detox day, but we’d usually tell the other beforehand. Beyond enabling our personal relationship, I’ve found it eye opening to work with Kathryn professionally. I already knew she was very good at her job (understatement), but it’s awesome to watch her in her zone of genius. I’ve definitely gained a new level of respect for her and feel like I’ve gotten to know her even better, which is a pretty cool surprise after nearly 27 years. It’s also really pushed me to step up my game, coming from a non-corporate background, so I’m grateful for the accountability and motivation. I feel like we’re able to learn a lot from each other and constantly develop our ideas through our uncannily effortless communication.
The Tricky Parts
Sarah: For me I think the trickiest part is for us to let go of our established older-younger sister roles. Especially with the fact that Kathryn has had to go above and beyond what she should have to do since our mum died 10 years ago, I think that those roles have always felt very fixed. Kathryn is a natural leader in work and in life and I’ve always very much expected her to be in charge (funnily enough I’m married to an eldest sibling and she’s married to a younger sibling). But, I am actually really proud of how we’ve managed this dynamic so far. We’ve delineated clear areas of the business we own which is very helpful and I think Kathryn’s experience as a manager and my experience running my own business are respectively strong enough for us to hold those work boundaries well.
Kathryn: I think the hardest part is keeping the boundaries between our relationship as co-founders and our relationship as sisters and best friends. We try to use different channels for both messaging and video calling but inevitably our conversations do end up flowing between the two. Where we try really hard to keep it separate is when we’re with the rest of our family – unless someone asks, we don’t do business chat in the middle of a family discussion. The other hard part for me is resisting my natural urge to act as the bossy older sister…I’ll let Sarah decide whether or not I succeed at that!!
What We’ve Learned
Kathryn: Sarah is naturally much better at sales than me. Probably because of all those times I made her make phone calls for me because I hated it so much! She’s also (thank god) much better at designing visual assets.
Sarah: I’d always hated the marketing side of running a business – I just wanted to get to the point of providing a service. But with the structure Kathryn’s helped me create and stay consistent with, I’ve started loving that!
Would we recommend working with a family member?
Having to disrupt our deeply ingrained older-younger dynamic for the sake of a healthy business relationship has, we feel, in turn led to a healthier and more free personal relationship. We’ve been able to be more vulnerable and transparent about our aspirations and fears. We’ve been able to ask for support (practical or emotional) when we need it.
It’s definitely got the potential to be problematic if you go into the venture without mindful consideration of how to set the proper boundaries. But, if you challenge yourself not to fall into familiar roles we can assure you it can be fantastic to work with a family member!