My Shift – From Family to Family Business

I work in a family business. I started working in my mom’s interior design firm shortly after university, about 7 years ago. What started as a basic desk job, answering phones and pouring coffee, slowly but surely blossomed into a career. Mind you, a career in a field I had never imagined working in, AND LOVING, let alone working so close to my mom every single day. When I tell people that I work in a family business, they tend to say in a very obviously presumptions shitty tone, “so, like, you work with you mom every single day? That must be hard!” It leaves me thinking, why isn’t it as hard as it once was? How did we get to the successful place we are now?

On reflection, we created several strategies that worked well for us to succeed in a family business environment and culture. The strategies work even for those who might not be part of the Sprague clan but are part of the team and live/work/play in our company culture.

Family Business

Establishing Boundaries and Permissions. 

Redefining the family relationship in the work space is key. Creating a “contract” of sorts. For instance, it is easy to let old habits or old stories bubble over into the work space. Our strategy was to agree that certain topics and conversations are booked and planned for outside of the work space. Not left to fester.  For any interpersonal conversations we agree to firstly ask permission and commit to actively listening.  Enduring our discomfort for the good of our culture — conflict, resolution and witnessing each other at the expense of the comfort of both parties. In other words, just sit in it.

Family Business

We Acknowledge Family First. 

We are a family first business. That means, if someone in our family circle is qualified to do work that we have, we will give them that work. We have made this policy overt and clear to ensure it doesn’t confront others we work with.

The lamp is a shining example of this. It was handmade for a client by my very talented brother-in-law. Just one of many of his beautiful pieces.


There is No Work-Life Balance

This is a conscious decision we made in our business. We believe in the flow of “life”. This was put so beautifully by a speaker at the recent season opener Grace Club YVR event we attended as a team. It resonated deeply with me. She said (basically),it’s not like we have a switch in our heads where we can flick from personal to work. They are all one and must be lived that way.” This policy does require open communication and honesty which brings me to the last strategy…


Show Up in Your Truth

We have been working to have a conscious and mindful workplace. This is a HUGE part of our culture here at our Studio and it is central. What ever you are feeling, our place of work is a safe space to express that feeling.

This is the framework: 

  • speak your “feel” without blame
  • take personal responsibility if applicable
  • identify your need around what’s happening for you
  • ask for support and help around that “need”

This is the part of our work environment that I love the most. It’s not always about checking your baggage at the door. And, it’s also not about unpacking that baggage in a hot mess everywhere in the work space.

It’s about:

  • carrying that baggage into the space
  • expressing that it’s heavy and you need help carrying it
  • and what that help might look like for you today


Love working in a family business

I do acknowledge that it can be challenging but establishing these strategies as part of our work culture has been worthwhile journey. I feel honoured to work with my mom and in our family business every single day. Plus, our staff are pretty much like family after working here, so… welcome to the Good Space Plans Online Dwaina Sprague ID clan!

Family Business