How to handle friends and family as employees


October 13, 2023


The family gathered together circa 1970. Pictured from left to right are Bobby, Bob Sr., Raleigh, Sandy, and Dennis Jenkins. PHOTO: DENNIS JENKINS

My brothers and I have an unusual history of business transition, from our childhood to now each owning and operating our own businesses. In short, Dad — Pest Management Professional Hall of Famer Bob Jenkins Sr. (Class of 2005) — helped each one of us start our own independent business. We are all ABC Home and Commercial Services, and yet we are all different.

Dad had someone running an ABC Pest Control office in Austin, Texas. When the employee left, my brother Bobby, who had previously spent time running the El Paso, Texas, office, was sent as his successor. Bobby began to grow the business there and at some point, a deal was struck between him and Dad to transition the ownership to Bobby. From there, Bobby has expanded ABC Austin into new markets and has built an amazing business.

My brother Raleigh, meanwhile, was working in San Antonio, Texas, after college. He and Dad decided Raleigh would go to Houston to start an office there, with support from both Dad and the ABC San Antonio office. Much later, Dad transitioned the ownership of the Houston market to Raleigh. Raleigh also has grown ABC Houston into an amazing business.

I followed a similar pattern. After working in San Antonio, I eventually went to the Dallas-Fort Worth market to start a business there. Again, at some point the ownership of ABC Dallas transitioned to me.

In all our cases, we continue to support our mother, Sandy, and the ranch she lives on in Marble Falls, Texas.

Keeping it in the family

All three of us have encouraged our children to work in the business from a young age. Just like us, they were all involved in some way, doing various jobs from stuffing envelopes, to cleaning the office, to running routes, and more.

Fast forward a few years, and we all have adult members of the next generation involved in our businesses. In many cases, we also have brought in the spouses of our children. As we brothers are now in our 60s, we are beginning to consider the eventual transition of our businesses to our children.

In Austin, Bobby has two of his three children involved, as well as their spouses. In Houston, all three of Raleigh’s children and their spouses work in the business. I have my son and his wife working with me.

All these children followed a similar pattern of working up the ladder. They earned the respect of others working there by working hard. In addition, they have all developed a passion for what they do, for growing a business, and for the people they work with. Each one has an important role, and while we may think we know who eventually will be in charge after we retire, we also have room for other decisions to be made when that time comes.

Dennis Jenkins

Dennis Jenkins

There are pitfalls to this, of course, such as the fact that family groups of people are constantly discussing work, which can become tiresome. But overall, this is a fantastic plan for our future. The next generation even has dreams of their own children coming into the businesses, and that makes my heart happy. Remember, we three brothers own separate businesses, and the cousins will not be working for one another, but hopefully they will have the kind of cooperative and supportive relationships my brothers and I have had.

Working with friends

As for friends coming in the business, it can work if handled correctly. In Raleigh’s and Bobby’s case, their respective seconds-in-command are their childhood friends who have worked with them since the beginning. There are other childhood friends in my brothers’ businesses who have senior management roles and will work at ABC until they retire. While I do not have any childhood friends working in the business, there are people there who have become my friends. I feel invested in them, and they feel invested in me and our company.

This may not always work out, of course. I had a person working with me who came onboard in about the eighth year we were in business. He was a talented salesperson and we team-sold and became friends. That friendship may have influenced me to promote this person into areas where we eventually had conflict. Today, he does not work with me, and we do not communicate. Friendships are a base to build on, but it is hard when it does not work out.

Clarity of position, responsibilities and future expectations are critical when hiring and maintaining family and friends as employees. Making promises prematurely to someone if they come on board can cost you either financially or a relationship, or both. However, if they buy into the vision of the company and bring value and a strong work ethic, I will say that it is worth the risk.

About the Author

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JENKINS, who rotates this column with his brothers Bobby and Raleigh, is president of ABC Home & Commercial Services, Dallas, Texas. He can be reached at

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