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Clan-do attitude to working with family can reap rewards for Irish firms

Working with a family member may seem a sure-fire way to guarantee rows — but think of the loyalty bonus, says Sandra O’Connell

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Full article published: The Sunday Times, March 8 2020 by Sandra O’Connell


Working with siblings as well as partners can also bring challenges. Brother and sister Aaron O’Donohue and Alison Stroh run Dr Coy’s Health Foods, a healthy-snack maker that has attracted investors including the Edge from U2 and Ali Hewson, wife of Bono. Before setting up Dr Coy’s in 2014, Stroh worked for Hewlett-Packard. O’Donohue, who joined a year later, was in finance. The pair had to learn to treat each other as colleagues first and family second — at least while at work. “I remember at one stage Aaron saying to me, ‘You wouldn’t say that to one of your HP colleagues,’ and it was true. You do say things to family that you might not say to someone else,” says Stroh. Clear demarcation lines help: Stroh looks after sales and marketing while her brother manages operations and finance. “We’ve never had a disagreement over strategy or direction, because ultimately there’s an appreciation that you’re both on the same team and have the same goal, so strategically you are aligned,” she says.
“You can’t always wonder what the other would do because you would get decision paralysis. So the important thing is to each make sure never to say, ‘Why did you do that?’”

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