The boundaries you need to set when working with family
Earlier in the year, a young shop owner posted a question on a repair shop owner community page. He was asking whether or not he should hire his wife to be a part of his shop’s team. The post quickly became flooded with responses. Owners from across the country were sharing both strong success stories and absolute horror stories.
But there was one thing that was obvious from the responses— working with family is hard, although if navigated correctly, can create a strong and trustworthy team.
Mike Baggett, owner of Pro Automotive Services in Wood River, Ill., and Jennifer Baggett, operations manager, have been able to create that strong balance of working together as spouses as well as managing multiple other family member employees.
Jennifer joined Mike at the shop around 10 years ago—19 years into their marriage. Throughout the past decade, the Baggetts have been able to set up multiple boundaries within their shop and their personal life that have helped them maintain their successful business and family life.
PUT ON YOUR BOSS HAT
One of the best ways to lay down a foundation of a good working relationship with family members is to establish the lines between employee and relative. But this can be a challenge, and something the Baggetts have had to learn and perfect over time.
“Sometimes it’s hard to put that boss hat on, you have to make sure to approach situations by saying, ‘I’m not talking to you as your aunt or as your family member, I’m talking to you as your boss,’” Jennifer says. “It’s so hard because it is family and you don’t want that awkwardness to carry over at the Thanksgiving table.”
This has to be distinguished between partners as well, she explains.
“You have to set boundaries and be committed to stay within the boundaries,” she says. “Allow one another to call each other out when boundaries are crossed.”
This is something that has taken time and work to establish at Pro Automotive Services, but has ultimately aided in the success and harmony between all employees.
“Communication is the biggest thing; when we quit communicating it becomes the elephant in the room,” Jennifer explains.
NO WORK AT THE TABLE
When Jennifer and Mike began working together over 10 years ago, they had to make a plan and set boundaries of their own.
They quickly realized that in order for the business to run smoothly and continue to have a strong marriage and home life, they needed to draw a hard line between work and home. For the Baggetts it’s simple: Work is done at work, and nowhere else.
“We both agreed that we weren’t going to let it leave the walls of this building, if we didn’t make that distinction, we just wouldn’t survive,” Jennifer says.
Even when large business decisions or conflicts arise, the rule stays the same.
“If there’s an issue, we sit together and talk about it at work,” Mike says. “When we’re at home, it’s
done, it’s been resolved.”
When the Baggetts’ kids lived at home, they were more cautious about not blurring the lines between work and home. Now, with their kids out of the house, they have to hold each other accountable for the separation.
“Once in a while, we’ll now catch ourselves talking about work (at home), but we really try not to,” Jenifer explains.
EVERYONE IS FAMILY
In order to ensure all employees feel equal at Pro Automotive Services, a strong culture has been put into place. Jennifer and Mike make sure all employees are treated equally.
“If a family member thought they were entitled to things other employees weren’t, a rift would start, and there could be animosity between the employees and the family members,” Mike says.
The Baggetts make sure they care for all of their employees as if they were family, regardless if they are truly related or not. They approach challenges and successes with each employee with the same thoughtfulness and care.
“If you were to come in and see the culture that we have—family members or not—our employees are all treated the same,” Mike says. “They really have all become family.”
“You have to set boundaries and be committed to stay within the boundaries.”
— Jennifer Baggett, owner, Pro Automotive Services
Talk it Out
Mike and Jennifer Baggett communicate regularly to set boundaries between work and home.
All in it Together
At Pro Automotive Services, family and business come together to create a strong team built on trust and dialogue.