According to Family Business Australia, there are more than 1.4 million family businesses operating in Australia. This accounts for 70 per cent of all businesses across the country. Yet often people think going into business with family is huge a risk – especially for women who are caring for families of their own, seemingly adding another layer of ‘complication’ to the mix.
Here we speak to Maria Konecsny, Managing Director and Co-Founder of Australian retailer Gewürzhaus, who shares her advice on starting and managing a successful family business.
Born in a small village in Germany, Maria grew up across three continents, mainly in Australia. From city life to farm life, she has lived in many places which gives her a unique perspective on life.
Passionate about creating a workplace and a business that challenges “business as usual”, Maria uses care and creativity to responsibly address sustainability at Gewürzhaus.
She has completed a Bachelor of Agricultural Economics with Honours at University of New England, and commenced a postgraduate Master of International Politics at the University of Melbourne.
Maria is also an avid traveller and cook who enjoys spending time with her family and watching her children grow.
What is your job title and can you give a little insight into what a day in the life of Maria Konecsny looks like?
I’m the Managing Director and Co-Founder of Gewürzhaus. I work part-time and my role is to lead our CEO and senior team to fulfil our mission, meet our values and build a strong, financially-stable company.
DEBUNK: It’s often said that going into business with friends or family is risky. Gewürzhaus is now in its 11th year of business, co-founded and run by you, your sister Eva and mother Gabi. How do you find running a business together and how do you make the dynamic work?
My sister and I worked together before starting Gewürzhaus, so we had ironed out many of the issues people might face going into business with family.
The biggest upside is you are not alone on the journey of building a business – you have someone with whom you can completely trust and whom you know extremely well by your side.
The downside is personal tensions often show up at work and can be very difficult to navigate.
My biggest piece of advice for anyone considering working with family is to have the difficult conversations before you start – what do you both expect and want to achieve? Have clearly defined and segregated roles.
And most importantly, have a solid shareholder’s agreement in place.