Six Factors that Drive Sibling Synergy in a Start-Up

Updated: Sep 9, 2021

Sibling relationships are tough and typically that is why the term sibling rivalry is so much more popular than sibling synergy. But can this dynamic work in a business setting? I was cautious yet realistic about starting a business with my brother. Working with your sibling can be a lot of fun as long as you consider these six aspects of a business partnership with a sibling.

It started with a phone call to my brother, eleven years my junior with a completely different educational background. I always vetted my business ideas by him so that phone call was no different than the hundred before that we have had. But the outcome was different. This time the phone call led to two changed career paths and a business venture. But there was also a possibility to either grow or destroy a relationship.

His experience is in business. He was a C-level executive in Silicon Valley. He grew businesses from 1 million in income to 100 million. He was known as the “Slade of all Trades” because he could do virtually anything in a business from Human Resources, to marketing, to the financial projections.

As for me, I am a physician in my own private practice. I knew how to run a small business but I had no idea how to scale. Unlike most other physicians, I actually enjoyed the business aspect of medicine- which led me to my grand idea. Our phone call in the spring of 2019 led to the opening of our flagship location of Kalvera Skin Therapy in Jacksonville Beach, FL during a pandemic.

Let’s dive into some thoughts to consider before starting an entrepreneurial venture with your sibling:

1. What is the dynamic of the relationship?

Do you generally “get” each other and share similar view points on the big things? Or do you constantly butt heads?

Because Slade and I have a significant age gap, we never had the typical sibling relationship. I left the house when he was seven and we really started our relationship as adults which created an entirely different dynamic. Because of the age gap, we never fought and we were never rivals. This may be the reason we chose to go into business together. Alternatively, we view each other as equals despite our age difference.

2. How do each of you communicate? How do you handle disagreements?

Slade and I have had disagreements over the years. Disagreements aren’t the problem, the way they are handled can be. We found success by carefully listening to each other to come to a mutual understanding. We both recognize that this is unusual in a sibling relationship but somehow it came naturally to us.

Siblings can choose to either fight fair or nasty. Although disagreements are common and expected in a business, there should be a no tolerance policy for rude behavior, name calling or silent treatment in a business setting.

3. How are your personalities similar/different?

Both of us are committed over-achievers in different industries. I am an ENTJ Myers-Briggs Commander Prototype and Slade is an INTJ, the Architect prototype. I am an extrovert and he is an introvert. We have different strengths and weaknesses and have created the best environment within our business for us to flourish in our business. There are significant strengths in having an introvert and an extrovert in business together.

4. What strengths do each of you bring to the partnership?

In our particular case, I bring the medical background, spa experience and an understanding of what the clients want in this market. In the past, I was unable to translate that into proper marketing, processes and procedures. Nor did I have the understanding in how to exponentially grow my business. Working with a business professional, especially one who has the ability to create a solid business strategy is invaluable. Physicians just do not understand how to do this. And to hire someone with this background will set you back a large six figures- a price tag most start-ups can’t afford.

5. How do each of you view your relationship with money?

People generally can have a healthy or unhealthy relationship with money. Before starting a business together make sure both you and your sibling have a healthy understanding of money and a healthy relationship with money. Starting a business is a financial strain. Make sure you can both handle the ebbs and flows.

6. What is your risk tolerance?

Entrepreneurship is like a rollercoaster. It’s easy to go from elated to despair very quickly. Before starting a business with a sibling, make sure you both like rollercoasters!

As a sibling team, we share the same enthusiasm to be entrepreneurs. We respect and admire each other and most of all, when things get tough, we know how to get each other through the rough patches. As a result of our business venture, our sibling relationship "synergy" has evolved in a way I could have never predicted.

Dr. Kalpana Sundar is a Physician, entrepreneur and speaker with a passion to disrupt beauty standards and empower women. She is the co-founder of Kalvera Skin Therapy, a startup that tracks skin metrics using technology and uses med-tech procedures to heal your skin. Kalvera Skin Therapy opened its flagship location in Jacksonville Beach, FL in 2020, and is growing rapidly.

Dr. Kalpana is also the author of the forthcoming book Beauty Unbound.

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