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I Hired My Mom (bradt.ca)
74 points by bradt 1376 days ago | hide | past | web | 53 comments | favorite

I disagree: You caught a lucky break here, but you are the exception, not the standard.

Family/friends and money don't mix well. They will always ruin the relationship. I've seen it countless times.

Absolutely yes. I am happy for the OP, but I must also disagree with his central point, i.e. "it's at least worth a try."

If things go south at all, you risk poisoning a family relationship. Family is precious; you generally only get one family. And you just cannot undo some types of damage done to/by family members.

I know a lot of people could hire their parents or siblings and get along great, but I also know a lot of people that don't talk to whole sides of their family after a nasty blowup. One should be very cautious when mixing money and blood, and ready to walk away from one or the other in a pinch.

I agree with everything except the part about parents.

The problem arises when someone is irresponsible or has bad communication.

If you trust your parents and they are good with money then I think it is a great idea if they are willing to help with accounting. Good parents are always happy when their kids are successful.

Friends and other family members can cause problems even if the relationship seems good.

It could also do the exact opposite, especially when contact is rare.

Always? Why do so many people insist in absolute work/life separation? It certainly hasn't been true throughout history. If you have to draw these clear lines it really just indicates an unhealthy understanding of the purpose of work, family, or both.

Huh? He said money and family/friends, not work and family/friends.

I think he is referring to family businesses throughout history.

Millions of family businesses think otherwise.

The difference is, in these cases the business hierarchy usually follows the family hierarchy. In other words, parents hire kids. This is an established paradigm. Sometimes siblings hire each other as well, and that can be OK more often than not.

But, that's not to say kids should hire parents. In that case, the business dynamic and family dynamic are very different. From a historical/statistical perspective this is an extremely unorthodox arrangement, for a good reason imho.

Interesting. Is this also the case for siblings or other family relationships that are not parent-child? In my own experience I've seen quite a few businesses run by, say, the youngest son who essentially hired his older brother. I have no idea about the statistics on this; I'm just wondering.

Maybe at first. But after the children take over, it will be the other way around.

If the children take over, this usually means the parents are retired.

There's various degrees of mixing family/money or in other words "doing business with family. Quitting your jobs, and taking out a loan to open a Tim Hortons (showing my Canadianism here) franchise together is a lot different than a retired mother doing some accounting for her son to make a bit of extra money. The latter seems fairly low risk.

I think you know your family and friends better than anyone else. He's not the exception, he just knew enough to trust his mom.

I think most mothers are okay to handle son's financial wealth, as long as they are not out of skills.

But I agree with you, this post is just a unique case.

Hiring family can be tough. If you would hire your Mom, would you also fire her?

My wife does the bookkeeping for my business; she has the perfect personality for it, being financially minded and very much a details person. She was second-in-command to a CFO back when we were both working for other companies, and the CFO told me once that she basically ran the entire company's finances for him. I definitely wouldn't call this outsourcing so much as a huge lucky break. Every time I see her updating our accounts software (she prefers the simplicity of AceMoney to Quicken), I feel relieved.

Lately I've thought a lot about this: If I didn't have a tax person, a bookkeeper, a good freelance web developer friend, and a business consultant, I estimate that I would have gone out of business (a third time) about five years ago. The first and second times I failed in my businesses I had none of those things. Now I'm finding even more people to share the load whenever I find myself "in the grip of my inferior function" (Meyers-Briggs talk). The alternative seems to be depression, anxiety, and everything that comes with that.

Well, currently both my mom and dad are working with/for my company. My mom manages the full book-keeping of the company). My father, because of the general economical situation in Italy, was left jobless. So, as soon a position opened at my company i simply proposed him to join. He is the warehouse manager now.

The thing in working with parents, in case they eventually are accountant, is that they can access all the figures of the company (for the good and for the bad). Another aspect to consider is dealing with weird situations. They will do bullshits and you need to tell them, as you would do with any other employee. Dealing with this is not easy and requires a lot of communicative skills and entrepreneurial experience.

How do you deal with payscale?? Do you decide just some market rate or do you decide how much worth is their work? Doesn't it complicate when you have a business partner?

Payscale is balanced with current market rates. For us all it was always an easy topic anyway. I guess that the fact that we are italians helped a lot as we value very little individual wealth and give a lot of importance to family savings. Currently (mom joined about 1 year ago, my dad little less than 6 months) they are happy with what they get.

You sound like an awesome progeny, I'm sure they are very proud of you.

Ahahah, well thanks but i can assure you that the way that lead to this wasn't easy at all. They weren't always pleased by the fact that i was running my own company (and not looking for a stable well-payed job - maybe in a state office). Only with economical difficulties (we have always been a medium-level family with my dad's ex job) they definitely started to appreciate what i've built. And while i'm happy that this is helping the whole family, i wouldn't consider myself as an "achieved" person quite yet.

"Dad, let's have a chat in my office"

"What's up son?"

"Nothing dad just need you to come in here real quick"


"It's about your career, I'm letting you go dad"

"You were an accident."


"Wow, I didn't think either of us could say anything to make this easier. Thanks dad."

More or less, daily situations.

I made the horrible mistake of partnering with my father on a business venture last year, and it has significantly strained the relationship. That was with a very clear line drawn between personal and business finances. I couldn't imagine dealing with the mess of mixing business and personal finances in that situation. shudder

I hope it works out. My personal rule to live by: Never hire someone you can't fire.

+1 to this. What if you need to fire your parent or spouse? Sure you might feel like you can do it, but for a whole lot of people the power dynamics and differentiating a personal relationship and professional one is tricky. I mean, I wouldn't write a blog post recommending this.

Couple quick scenarios come to mind:

"Why are you firing me?" "I need someone more qualified. You've done good work, It's not personal." "But I'm your mother. I changed your diapers and taught you right from wrong." ...

"Mom, my business failed. I have no money." "Well, you should have thought of that when you fired me." ...

"Well, you should have thought of that when you fired me."

perfect statement.. better to place mom or spouse in a company where you can give recommendation and have contacts not in our own shop, unless you are running coffeshop (OK I guess :)

I tried outsourcing my financials to my wife (who works in accounting) and it did not work out. Relationship wise it wasn't good but also found out after switching back that was happier and more productive doing it myself.

what were the issues specifically with this if you don't mind sharing. My wife (who is an accountant) has been pestering me to hire as a contractor to do my one man business bookkeeping and for some reason, I keep avoiding that discussion. May be your story can give me some more insight.

We (my wife and I) hired my mom to run my e-commerce stores after she retired. She is paid an above-average hourly rate, can set her hours, and can work from home. Knowing that we would be giving someone access to a merchant account that has a significant amount of money run through it each month, we had to have someone we could trust to process refunds and occasionally charge additional amounts when orders were upgraded.

She spends 1-3 hours a day managing the stores while my dad works on his model trains. It's enough to keep her busy, have a sense of accomplishment similar to her old job, provide a little extra income - all while not cramping their retirement.

I was a little nervous at first - more about her feeling pressure to make us happy than us being satisfied with her work. However, her role is clearly defined (answer emails, return phone calls, and submitted/track orders to our supplier, etc). This reduces the chance of misunderstandings or let-downs than would be more likely to occur with a less defined role like strategy or marketing.

Thanks for the comments! Bonus stories for you wonderful HN'ers:

My dad started out as an auto mechanic and painter. He decided to setup his own shop with his first cousin and it was a disaster. They butted heads constantly. My dad sold his shares to his partner and moved on to other things. They tried it, it didn't work out, and so they moved on. Throughout my childhood our family was very close with my dad's first cousin and his family. They relationship is still strong today.

My mother and her brother had a dispute about money over fifteen years ago. They still do not speak today.

Family and friends can be tricky when it involves money, there is no question.

See this: "My mother and her brother had a dispute about money over fifteen years ago. They still do not speak today." - This is exactly what is the norm when mixing business and family and it's absolutely heart breaking. I can't imagine how you must feel. :(

What I got out of article, is that when you are one person company and do not want to do something boring, become a two* person company.

* Author calls this outsourcing, but I simply can't see that. If we buy that, we might as well buy that all other companies consist of CEO and a bunch of people he 'outsources' lower level things to.

I hired your mother too, Trebek.

Wrong website. Too many tabs open?

This is my favourite comment so far.

It was very tempting to make that comment. Thanks to schenectasy for stepping up for all of us.

"I can’t think of a single reason you should be doing this yourself."

followed by

"But how do you outsource something as sensitive as financials?"

Sounds like a single reason.

My dad, who's run a small business successfully for 25+ years, recently retired and I've agreed to have him support me on the operations side of my business. My mom is by far the best usability study ever. She's in her 60s and doesn't get technology that well but can use pinterest. If my website is usable for her, it'll be usable for anyone.

Many business decisions require a certain level of ruthless efficiency to execute. These decisions are fundamentally incompatible the nurturing relationships established in family units or friendships.

I think I missed the part where this is a tax deductible expense for him? Otherwise I think I'd keep my family away from my startup. Its stressful enough without having to add family into the mix.

Congrats. I agree completely.

My mom is a fantastic freelance bookkeeper. The day I go at it alone, she's going to be my first "hire".

Good for you. Hope it works out again!

Six months later: "I Fired My Mom (and now our relationship is weird)"

Really interesting, though it may really vary for most based on what skill sets their immediate relations have.

this was very touching to read and it's encouraged me to do the same. I don't have a wife or a fiance but I would never entrust them with this kind of sensitive material because there's a real risk of relationships souring. With family it's easier to deal with and it's easier to communicate instead of trying to bury things in order to not ruin a marriage.

"Hey Ma, need you to stop hiding grocery purchases under company's funds, if you wanna keep your job"

"But I'm your mother"

"Okay, alright, just don't do it again"


"Hey babe, need you to stop buying expensive items under company's funds"

"fine, since you don't love me you can marry someone else"


Here's a pro-tip. When you're finding a wife or a fiancé -- find one with integrity. I'm not sure I'd want to stay married to someone who could come out with that.

> "Hey babe, need you to stop buying expensive items under company's funds" > "fine, since you don't love me you can marry someone else"

Phew! Sounds like you dodged a bullet there (marrying someone lacking basic moral integrity).

You basically practice nepotism. Most of your staff and peers and people around you consider that as a form of corruption. Congratulations.


Why does nepotism get such a bad rap? I mean, nobody cares about nepotism in a family owned convenience store or restaurant or gas station. So when does it become a problem--in a particular industry? Or is there a certain number of employees (or a certain amount of revenue) that needs to be reached before it constitutes corruption?

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