How to work with your family — and still stay friends

two brothers hugging

The Salter brothers have worked together for 13 years with great success and not a single serious argument. Here’s how the London members make it work

By Jess Kelham-Hohler   Tuesday 18 February, 2020

For some, the idea of going into business with a family member may induce a cold sweat. Not so for brothers Simon and Andrew Salter, who, for the past 13 years, have helped infuse causes and brands with cultural clout and incubated several businesses of their own. For these two, working with a family member offers unique benefits.

‘I trust Simon more than I would any other business partner,’ Andrew says. ‘In any other business relationship, you’ve got to work so hard to trust people because everyone has their own agenda. Having a rock-solid family foundation means that, first and foremost, I want to have success for my brother, and vice versa.’

In 2014, already a few years into working together, the pair met the mother of a young man who’d lost his life to testicular cancer at 19 and were inspired to start a social movement. They launched #FeelingNuts to educate men on the importance of catching the warning signs early and, within three months, a billion people had got behind the movement, which culminated in a TV special that the duo produced for Channel 4. The brothers realised that they were on to something, and their business was off the ground.

Since then, they’ve broken UKTV’s viewing records with boxer David Haye, helped reinvent the branding for Rolls Royce for millennials and created a three-day festival celebrating black culture with performances from Mos Def, Adwoa Aboah and Morgan Freeman. Today, the brothers run Limelyte, their recently relaunched culture and innovation studio, out of Soho Works in White City, where they’re currently working on staging the world’s largest hip-hop festival, developing a platform to democratise the art market and launching their own mushroom tea brand.

‘The time I ran the London marathon is a perfect analogy of our relationship,’ says Simon. ‘During the run, I reached a point where I was broken physically and really thought I couldn’t finish. Andrew was using a tracking app and saw that something was wrong, so he came to find me. He started cheering me on, then he started running alongside me on the sidelines. I wasn’t alone, and that got me to the end. In our business, through the successes and the hard times, I’ve never been alone.’
two brothers hugging
Here, the brothers share their top four pieces of advice for how to successfully go into business with a family member:

1. Don’t be insecure about your weaknesses
‘You have to loosen the reins of your emotion,’ says Simon. ‘Working with your family, you realise that you’re meant to be each other’s cheerleader, to support and encourage each other. That means you can’t be afraid of your own weaknesses, because your partner is there to help push you up.’

2. Be tuned into what the other needs
‘While you always want to put on a brave face for your team and promote optimism in your business, there are inevitably those times when you’re worried or anxious,’ Andrew says. ‘When I feel down, my brother feels it, in a way I think another business partner wouldn’t. Whenever that happens, the other will come in and encourage that one that it’s going to be OK. I think providing that support system is especially important when you’re working with family.’

3. Be equal
‘Because of the nature of our business, we can separate the work we’re responsible for based on our core competencies, but we are fundamentally equal,’ says Simon. ‘Having that setup allows each person to have some breathing space. We’re equal partners and there’s equal respect for each of us.’

4. Always be truthful
‘It’s important to never hide anything,’ Andrew says. ‘I can confidently say that there is nothing hidden between us. We all know that eventually secrets come out, and it’s always better to be completely upfront and transparent. It’s what reaffirms the fact we can completely trust one another.’

Images by Greg Williams Photography