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Pitfalls and Profits of Working with Family, Friends

Like any other industry, commercial integration has its share of spouse-, family- and friend-run businesses. So what’s the secret to this marriage of work and personal life?

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The Priers are not green to this idea, either.

Ron and Angela are CEO and CFO of RPAV, respectively.

The married couple started the design and installation firm together almost a decade ago, made a pact to do it for one year no matter what, and today it is a four-headed international enterprise based out of Bowersville, Ga.

In the beginning, Ron worked in the field every day with his 17-year-old son, and Angela did all the paperwork and billing. Once the business grew, the couple drew a line mirroring that of Michael and Kiffie Hester, albeit with a different symbolic mode of transportation.

“Only one person can drive the ship, so I drive it but she gives me directions,” says Ron Prier. Wait a minute, the wife giving directions — does that sound familiar?

The Never-Ending Meeting

Don’t take work home with you. We hear this all the time. But when you go home to have dinner with your coworkers, this idea is even more important.

Bruce and Buffy MacLelland of Applied Video Technology take family business to new heights in Kimberton, Pa. The couple works alongside their son Bruce Jr., and daughter Ashley. Bruce started the company 18 years ago, and Buffy got involved four or five years later. Ashley Buettner has been at AVT eight years and was promoted to sales manager last July. Bruce Jr. has always had a real interest in the industry, especially the technical aspect.

“He was our backup installer all through high school and college!” Buffy laughs, reminiscing. “Then he wanted to get more involved in sales, and now he’s a systems sales account manager.”

The family gets along well in and outside the office. And while it’s not a hard rule that business won’t come home with them, there is very little business discussed outside of the workplace.

“We all have other interests, shared interests,” Bruce says. “We get together with family a lot, but we just don’t bring [work] up. There are other things in life and that’s what we talk about.”

Ron and Angela Prier have made this more of a steadfast rule. They agree the reason they have been so successful as a couple is because they made a decision long ago not to talk about work after hours.

“Sometimes you have to say one thing, so we say, ‘I’m going to tell you this one thing and then I’m going to shut up’ or we say, ‘Hey remember, we’re at home.’ If we took work home, not only would our business crumble, but our marriage would crumble.”

Jay and Aaron McArdle do something similar. They say they talk business so often at work, but try not to bring it home with them — which must be hard considering they live across the street from each other.

“When you run a small business you’re working all the time, so we do [talk business outside of work] sometimes but we are conscious not to let that consume what we’re doing,” says Aaron. “Instead of discussing it in detail in the moment, we say, ‘When I get home I’m going to send you an email about this and I need you to look at it tonight.'”

With their father, who also works part-time in the company, he says it’s more about Zdi’s social calendar: “Hey, who’s coming to the golf outing?”

The McArdle brothers also might have the opposite situation down pat — they don’t discuss home at work.

“It drives my wife and our mother crazy,” Aaron says. “My wife will ask, ‘Is Jay coming over for dinner tonight?’ and I will say, ‘I don’t know, we didn’t talk about that!’ even if we were together discussing business plans all day.”