A Family Affair: When Your Mom is the President

By Steve Gatena, an EO Los Angeles member and founder and CEO of REP Interactive

When most people think of a “family business,” they likely think of a company that’s been handed down the family chain from generation to generation. I took a different approach. When I was 22, I launched REP Interactive, a global video and broadcast media production company. Bucking the trend, I chose to hire friends and family to help me realize my vision, knowing full well that running and maintaining a business was going to be a challenge.

Of special note was the hiring of my mom, Judy, as president. It was a bold move, but leveraging her considerable experience was important to me. My mom is a self-made entrepreneur who almost single-handedly helped our family transition from living on welfare to reaching upper-middle class. I grew up watching her build a successful business from scratch. She never made excuses and she never settled for “no.” Naturally, I was excited to have her on board. But as the company started to expand, I realized that our mother/son relationship made it difficult for me to give orders and provide direction.

Working alongside a family member is tough enough— trying to run a business with your mom is considerably more difficult. If she didn’t like what I wanted to do, she would simply reject it. Having already made it as an entrepreneur, she often felt the need to challenge some of my decisions. I struggled with that at first. Eager to keep the company—and our relationship—afloat, I studied interpersonal communication, researched business fundamentals and spent a lot of time observing behavior. Along the way, I realized that my communication style with my mom had to change in order for our business to stay on course. I had to learn how to better communicate as her son, even while I’m making a request as the CEO.

As I adjusted my approach and paid more attention to my delivery, we began to get “in sync.” I started to see my mom as someone I could truly rely on. I’ve learned to trust her advice, and she lets me make mistakes. We now ebb and flow with the rhythm of business, and best of all, we’re able to learn together. By speaking to one another as mother and son instead of drawing a line between our familial and professional relationship, we’ve grown faster than we ever thought possible. I’m definitely thankful for that, and I’m glad to have my mom on board. I’m sure if you asked her, she’ll agree that it’s been an interesting journey, to say the least.

REP Interactive is a video marketing agency that helps businesses engage new clients and strengthen brand awareness.

Categories: Entrepreneurial Journey

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