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How Zea Runs as a Family-Owned Business

Hayden Brass | 27 August

Recently Kochie's Business Builders reached out to us to see how we make being a family-owned business work for us! You can check out the feature here.

Each year we learn more on how to foster our workplace culture and are quite proud to have built a solid foundation that allows our team to continue to deliver on our promises to you.

We thought it would be great to share all the questions Kochie's asked us and give you some insights into how mixing family with business has become the ultimate equation for growing Zea to what it is today.

1. What is your best tip around managing communication with your family members in the business?

Communication is a huge thing that we work on consistently within the company. Because we all work virtually and all live up and down the East Coast of Australia, we rely on open, honest and frequent communication to function as a team.

Our best tip is to pick your channels, define what each of them are for and agree on how you will use them. We use three main channels – Slack, Asana and Zoom. 

Slack is for our ongoing conversations. When we have a question, an idea, we need a quick answer or input we use Slack. It’s the kind of conversation we would have if we were in an office together and we’d go to their desk or ask in passing. We also use it to minimise email. We are already flooded enough with emails from external parties that we like to avoid internal email as much as possible. We also use Slack for acknowledgments of great work done, celebrations, updates, and more than once, funny pictures, videos, and jokes.

Asana is used for all our project management. All our projects are set up here and structured with an overview, sections, tasks, and sub-tasks. Everything is assigned and has deadlines. This is where we provide context and content required to make decisions, upload or link to key documents, and have written confirmation of decisions made. If it’s formal, it goes here.

And Zoom is what we use to host our meetings. We have weekly team meetings, monthly department meetings, and also Friday night drinks once a month. Zoom is what we use when we would have gathered in person or when we want to see each other’s smiles.

By sticking to these main channels and training all team members on how to best use them, we have found a really great flow with our comms and how we interact with one another.

2. What is your best advice to other businesses around making family members’ roles and responsibilities clear?

We are so lucky in that we all have different passions and skills that blend really well together in the health and wellness industry.

From marketing to business to naturopathy to personal training to being a chef, it’s all worked out incredibly for us! It hasn’t always been a smooth ride though as we try and navigate growth and expansion, but it definitely helped that we have all come into this with different skill sets.

Our best advice around this is to ensure that everyone has a clear and defined Position Description and Employment Contract. Everyone gets paid a salary and is treated like our other employees. As family, we are each other’s biggest champions, but as we’ve grown and taken on other employees, we ensure that everyone is treated fairly and equitably.

We also know how important communication is with one another and the PD and contracts ensure that we are all on the same page and there are fewer chances for someone to feel like they are missing out, being treated differently, or not being compensated fairly.

3. How do you set clear boundaries between family and business?

This is probably the most difficult one to manage! We are always working on our boundaries, especially when we love what we do so much and willingly spend a lot of time on our work, but what works for us is being clear on family time and work time.

With my partner and our family, we make sure that we don’t only talk about business 24/7. We have some rules in place like limiting business talk after the work day and try not to talk about work in bed at night!

We also make sure that with the whole family we are doing regular things together without it being work focused, such as trips interstate to see one another, lunches and dinners, outings, going to the footy, and just hanging out.

We also make sure that in a work setting that we are not prioritising someone’s needs or requests just because they are family. With a wider team, we honor each individual regardless of whether they are a brother, sister, or mother. It has to come from a place of equality.

4. It’s so easy to want to do it all yourself, but how important is it to bring in outside talent to fill any gaps within a family business?

As much as we’d love to be able to do it all ourselves, there’s no possible way we can. Getting outside talent in really helped super speed our growth and allow us to kick even more goals a lot faster.

We sought out people who were passionate about what we do, are aligned with our ethics, and brought a lot of hard-won experience and skills. All of this allows us to maintain our values, implement new projects, help us learn from one another, and be there for each other through thick and thin. Not to mention, bring in an incredible amount of external knowledge that we otherwise would not have.

Every single one of our team members feels like they are part of the family and it’s so important to us that it is always that way.

5. How important is it to have a succession plan?

From the start, we’ve tried to make each person’s role as clear as possible to help combat any future issues. The way we’ve set up everyone’s roles is done in a way that if they wanted to work fewer hours, move into another department or leave, we are able to do that without it affecting the business in a detrimental way.

It definitely is important to have a succession plan and is absolutely something we have thought about, but through our first period of team growth, we realised we needed to do a workaround some other aspects before formalising any succession plan.

We worked on identifying our key man risk areas, ensuring that we have a transfer of knowledge into systems and processes (this is a big thing we still are working on) and that the business doesn’t rely alone on the family to survive.

We aren’t perfect and we’re still in the growth stages, but we have spent a lot of time nurturing and building Zea up to be a fully functional company on its own two feet so that no matter what happens we have future-proofed it as much as possible.

Author - Hayden Brass

For the past few years, Hayden has lived and breathed Zea. He has been the driving force behind turning what was a family project into a real business that could positively impact millions of people throughout the world. It's Hayden's personal mission to develop products that have a positive impact on people’s lives and well-being. When he is not working and talking about Kunzea Oil, Hayden enjoys getting outdoors into nature and exploring the beautiful planet in which we call home.