An OFW asks how to deal with business partner in-laws

An OFW asks how to deal with business partner in-laws

Oct 29, 2014

doubtful in-lawQuestions: Hi Rose! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on just about everything that your readers ask you. I am one of your avid followers, reading and learning insights from your parenting and saving articles.

 I just want to ask for your advice about my situation. I am an OFW working to provide for the needs of my family and my future as well. I have acquired various assets and have some diverse savings as well but I think they’re not yet enough, so I ventured into the farming business with my in-laws since they were the ones who know more about the business plus I am not physically present to personally look into it. The first few years went well and I was earning well from the venture. Then I discovered that my in-laws have been withholding the actual finances of our business, just saying that some money went to this and that without showing me receipts. Friends are telling me that my business is earning more than what my in-laws claim. How should I deal with these untruthful dealings of my in-laws? They are spending some profits of my business for their household expenses without telling me. I have requested them to put everything on record but they are not complying with me. They said that “Wala ka namang tiwala sa amin kasi!” but I am really losing my trust in them and I don’t know how to confront them in a way that our relationship will not be affected. My husband confronted them about money issues before and that caused our relationship to turn sour. We regularly send them money both for their expenses and the operations of our business.

 Thanks and more power to you! – from Doubtful In-law via email


Answer: Hi Doubtful In-law, I’m happy that you are learning from my articles. I must admit that you are in a difficult situation. This is the reason why the richest families in the Philippines observe this cardinal rule: “No in-laws in the business!” Ideally speaking, in-laws should be treated no differently from blood family members but since we don’t live in an ideal world where almost half of marriages end up in separations, then I guess we have to take the cue from the Gokongweis, Sys, Ayalas for they have been there long enough to see what works. But since you’re already in that situation, let me offer some thinking points for you:

  1. Revisit the original goal of the business partnership. You mentioned that you have acquired various assets but got into this family business to add more and I admire you for that. I suppose your intention was to add to your monthly income and build an asset that will appreciate in value, which may be sold or may continue to be a source of income in your retirement years. Now will these goals still be met given your situation? How about your in-laws, what were their goals in this partnership in the first place?
  1. Review your roles in the partnership. I hope you were clear on the roles of each party in this partnership. I assume that your role is the funder and theirs is the operations manager. Which party is not delivering on its respective role?
  1. Evaluation and Assessment. Closely related to the previous point is the manner by which each party should be evaluated. Did you come up with certain parameters on how you would assess each other’s performance so that you would be on track in fulfilling your shared goals?
  1. Original Partnership Arrangement. Did you agree on equity sharing or profit sharing or salary for the one manning the operations? What sort of accountability was agreed upon? You mentioned that they refuse to show you receipts using “Wala ka namang tiwala sa amin kasi!” as their weapon. Don’t allow them to get away with this lazy alibi. Tell them that keeping books in order is the only way a business can run successfully. Tell them that showing receipts to the funder and full disclosure is the only way to ensure that tiwala or trust can survive in a business.
  1. Boundaries. Ideally, dealing with in-laws, even blood relatives and friends you are in business with should have clear-cut rules in setting boundaries between the personal and professional lives. It’s really a tricky situation. You mentioned that you send them money both for their household needs and for the business and based on your narration, even the boundaries on the money aspect are not clear as you think that profits from the business are being used for their personal use. I hope you have something tangible to back up this accusation.
  1. Exit mechanism. Again, ideally, when you started the business, there should have been agreements on exit strategies. This is important whether the business would prosper or not, but the need is more urgent if it’s a losing proposition because continuously operating at a loss might bleed the company to death, losing all its value that it has acquired during the profitable period. Now carefully and honestly assess your business and ask yourself the question whether point no. 1, your goal which is the reason for this business to continue to exist, is still attainable. If it is, then have a major reorganization meeting with your in-laws and make sure that you plug all the possible loopholes; otherwise, it might be time to cut loss.
  1. Be properly armed when you enforce your decision. Whether you decide to continue or discontinue your business, a major “stockholders’ meeting” is in order. Make sure you are equipped with your evidence, firm on your reasons and decision when you meet with them. Do not allow them to use their primary weapon against you, which is GUILT. “Wala ka namang tiwala sa amin kasi!” should not be allowed in the discussion. Because honestly, wala na nga! But instead of allowing yourself to get into that discussion whether the trust is still there or not, focus on your main goal. Explain to them in the clearest way possible that the “reason for being” of this business partnership is to give you additional income and grow its asset value for your retirement. Therefore, if that goal cannot be attained anymore, there is no reason to continue operations, whether it’s with them or some hot-shot business partners. As simple as that. Avoid the emotional drama that they will definitely use against you. Be prepared to cut them, in your most polite way, the moment they engage you in this emotional guilt trip. Don’t go there, wala kang panalo dyan!
  1. Remember what’s more important. In the end, our success in life is measured not by our Net Asset Value but in the relationships that we make and will be remembered by. It is impossible to please everybody but if you stand in your truth, by your core values, even those who don’t necessarily like you will find it hard to say bad things about you. If you decide to end your business relationship with your in-laws, they will remain your family. Should this result to you moving away from each other, don’t beat up yourself taking the blame unnecessarily. Sometimes when our core values with our loved ones grow apart, it is hard to remain as close with them as we want to. But you can continue to love them without being chummy with them. Continue to be in good terms with them. Continue to express your love for them the way you used to or how you think they would appreciate it. If you’ve done this, then you can sleep soundly at night.

I wish I was able to give you helpful thinking points. Discuss them with your husband and you two should get into that “stockholders’ meeting” super united. Give him the difficult lines to deliver, for they will look more kindly on their blood relative than their in-law. Good luck!


(Rose Fres Fausto is the author of bestselling books Raising Pinoy Boys (download free book sample) and The Retelling of The Richest Man in Babylon (a story and activity book for kids from 1 to 92). Click this link to watch the new and exciting Book Trailer.

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