Monday 16 January 2017

Problem Solver: Oh brother! We have sibling issues in our business

Published 10/09/2015 | 02:30

Feargal Quinn
Feargal Quinn

Q: My brother and I are involved in business together. My role is less active than his, however, we have had ongoing disputes about the direction the business should be taken and we are now barely talking. Have you any ideas on how we might resolve the situation?

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A: Animosity among family members within a business can sometimes be disastrous as it tends to spread into the family and suddenly instead of two business people making decisions and debating a matter, the whole extended family end up taking sides and volunteering opinions.

My first piece of advice would be that if this is to be resolved, you both need to agree that whatever happens within the business, stays within the business and is not communicated within the wider family, otherwise you risk the splitting of the family down the middle with potential lifetime conflict.

Once you have achieved this you now need to focus on the business issue. Treat it as if you are not brother and sister, but rather two investors in the same business.

Your conflict seems to arise over decisions which are taken and direction the business is moving in.

It might be a good idea to get a third party adviser/mentor to come in and review the business without giving them any particular background and see what their recommendations are. This might help both sides to take a more neutral approach. It would also be a good idea if you both sit down and write down the areas of disagreement and then logically talk through each one and get agreement on how to proceed forward.

Running a business with a sibling is all about respect and using commercial logic to create a sustainable future. If the respect is lost, then you have no choice for one of you to buy the other out of the business.

Q: I have been doing lots of research on food trucks in America and the UK and I am considering purchasing one and basing myself in the Dublin region. I have lots of experience in the food sector.

A: Food trucks are certainly something that is catching the imagination in a very big way. For over a decade now in America they have become part of mainstream business with fleets of trucks arriving on designated sites on particular days of the week.

They use social media and databases to tell customers when they will be in a particular area. London is beginning to experience a similar trend with the likes of KERB Market in Kings Cross attracting many customers.

Setting up a food truck is going to be the same as setting up any other shop, other than it is mobile so you will still have to do all of the usual feasibility work and business planning.

Here is my concern. Right now, existing food trucks in and around Dublin are struggling to find space. There is no formal designated area for food trucks to operate and some have had to resort to renting private land to find a pitch.

I have no doubt that your idea is good and that provided your product offer is innovative and represents value to the consumer, then sales will follow. The weakness could be that there might not be enough locations for you to move the truck to on different days each week which has been the pattern in other regions.

I am sure you have also considered widening your catchment area and attending some of the festivals and events which happen throughout the country on an annual basis.

This would help you to eliminate any over reliance on one area and also keep customers stimulated by the novelty value of the truck appearing only on certain days.

I think if you get locked into a single site for everyday of the week, then you just become a permanent shop which happens to have wheels.

The real opportunity is to be able to bring your great food offer to customers at multiple locations, and that is why the food truck model succeeds.

Send your small business questions to himself@feargalquinn.ie

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