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What to Do When Your Brother Is Your Boss

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Ben Cimino has been working in his family's Syracuse, N.Y.-based fresh produce business for most of his post-college life.

But Cimino, 34, has been frustrated for years with the dynamics of working with his father and two brothers. (Cimino also has a sister, who does not work for the company.) According to Cimino, the lack of praise for being dependable, and in general for his hard work, has taken its toll.
Island Buggies on Nantucket Island, Mass., is like any family-owned business: It benefits from being run less like a family and more like a business.

"It was as if the opportunity to share the business was privilege enough," he writes in an email.

Other things about working with his family bothered him, like how his older brother justified his salary only by saying he had been there longer and deserved to make more. Or the fact it was difficult to separate family and personal life from work.

Most importantly, Cimino says, there was too much "gray area" in the realm of authority.

"There's an obvious pecking order amongst us, but there's also a lack of ramifications for inappropriate conduct that wouldn't fly in other settings," he writes.

Cimino became so frustrated that he recently quit, despite being newly married, and decided to make his dream of becoming a teacher finally a reality. Cimino already has a degree in biology and had been a substitute teacher for a short time before working with his family. Beginning this summer, he is going back to school to get his master's degree in teaching, specializing in science and special education.

Cimino's frustrations about working with his family are not uncommon when it comes to small businesses, many of which are family owned. The potential for problems when it comes to working with family, many of them unique, shows how important it is to establish clearly defined processes and lines of division and separate work-related and family matters.

Successful family businesses are those with families "who are able to keep the two legal entities separated by having well-crafted partnership agreements," says Carolyn Thompson, director of human resources at Goodman & Co.
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