Working With Family, Digital Ideas That Can Help

In these economic climes it makes sense to play with businesses close to the vest. If you are lucky enough to have a bunch of family that can become your coworkers then you’ll save a massive amount in overhead.

The Family that Makes Chocolate Together…

We’ve been told a lot lately that Robin and I (or to Bill & Karen) are very lucky to have family members who can be tapped for work effort. We don’t disagree. While I’d love to hire some of my expert friends in sales the budgets just aren’t a feasible to allow for it in such a bootstrapping fledgling company.

Learning and Overcoming Limits

With the added family and the generally low overhead it comes at an emotion cost and perspectives that are hard to work with.

How do you tell someone who is uncomfortable with a role to just tough it out? How do you put the screws to a father or mother to stop over-thinking and just follow the playbook?

Under the corporate umbrella or even small business you can guess what your manager would have said, or the result that would have occurred if you had stayed on your derisive path. Here though we’re dealing with a lot more intertwined relationships that can’t be met with such a hard stance.

In our cases Robin and I are (relatively) young guns that move fast while carrying extreme loads without much sweat. However, it could be spread more if the same malleability of handling new responsibility was equally met by the greater generations of family. (Like how I kept all that nice? *-grin-*)

All in all you have to have some amazing communication, understanding, and allow for a natural pace to be set. You aren’t working with the bulls of the street, by taking an more affordable path you must find equilibrium within the relationships.

Working Smarter, Not Harder with Google

Many people do not realize that Google offers a wealth of tools for free. Wiki’s, Lists, Calendars, Documents, etc. As long as you have people on board that can be taught a little bit of digital tech you can reap some fantastic benefits that never before have been so readily available.

Calendaring for All

Once you plug your domain into Google’s architecture you can do domain specific ideas. We share multiple calendars with each other from work schedules, market days, & deliveries. We even started a outside of work schedule to track part time employment between everyone so we can make sure to schedule the work or meetings at everyones free time.

General Wiki

While your parents may not know what a wiki is, they’ll quickly adapt to the knowledge base that you can assemble. With Google’s “Sites” tool you can setup an indepth wiki that can source information deep within.

For example, we have a wiki that has everything from a ToDo list, R&D, equipment lists, discussions, ideas, and more. We created a dashboard within the wiki and bookmarked it on everyones computers that gives them a quick overview of the ToDo list, the shared calendar, and the work orders. Need more detail? Just click through or use the navigation to find greater detail.

Shared Documentation and Spreadsheets

Unless you live under one roof you are all co-locating. Beyond the information repository of a wiki you’ll need a way to work and access documents together or play with spreadsheets. We’ve employed Google’s Document manager to help us keep the work orders and inventory straight. I can easily leverage that data and keep our finances up to date.

Sharing Collateral Materials, DropBox

Another young application on the scene, DropBox. Install it on your computers and then share a folder between people. It helps everyone involved have access to logos, pdfs, print materials, marketing, saved emails, and more. This is one of the most critical tools we use to stop the passing of outdated or incorrect versions of materials that would have been sent via email before.

Dropbox even keeps a change log that allows you to rollback an edit or accidental deletion that might occur. Offsite backups, built-in! They have a 2gb cap which is more than most little startups need. Once we grow, we’ll start paying and everyone wins!

Giving Everyone a Voice, Family Blogging

Lastly and most uniquely you can give all involved a voice through blogging. I solicit at our weekly meetings for new articles to put on our chocolate blog. While I don’t always get material and some material takes a lot longer to “bake” than others, it is a very fun way to get everyone involved and able to participate in the dynamic web. It also gives you fantastic fodder for making your newsletters whether online or off.

Winning Takes Time

Even if you have a fantastic family it’s still going to take a lot of hard work, sweat, and tears to get where you are going. Nothing in life is free, and nothing is as easy at it can be thought to be. With an open communication policy, mediation, and thoughtfulness everyone can find their success. Just stick with it.

Please share your own family stories, where they were right, or where they went wrong. Everyone can learn from these experiences.

I invite you to visit my families rising chocolate shop, The Secret Chocolatier. Where we are trying to bring amazing artisanal delights to the Charlotte region and beyond.