After we heard Coralie Charriol Paul’s experience working for her family’s business, Charriol, for over 18 years, we interviewed her on what it takes to sustain positive relationships in a family business. Unfortunately, since the time of our interview, Coralie’s father died tragically. We’ve moved forward with publishing the interview in memory of Philippe Charriol (1942-2019), founder of the family’s eponymous watch business and the father Coralie learned so much from.
So you work for your family’s business, which definitely brings a whole different dynamic to some of your relationships. Which of your family members are involved in the business?
All of them!! Haha.
So, my father Philippe Charriol is the founder and president of the brand, since 1985. He still owns the brand 100% and works every single day. My stepmother Olga is the director of PR and has been here for a few years. My brother Alexander Charriol is the art director and has been here for the past 5 years. My cousin Thomas Barbotin is working in China currently.
As for me, I have been here for 18 years, and I’m now the creative director for jewelry and vice president of the whole brand!
First, we have to ask: what is it like to work with your parent as your boss?
I loved working with my dad when I first started. I graduated from Tufts and immediately went to work for him in the PR and events department. We launched the Megeve watch in 2000, and that was a huge event I was super pumped about! I learned on the job and had a great team in the communications department who helped me out a great deal. I then started to travel with my father to different countries in Asia and the Middle East, and was basically his right-hand assistant. He didn’t necessarily teach me but I learned by observation. He let me take my own initiatives and make my own mistakes. He trusted my opinion and my taste, liked my ideas and let me try them. Sometimes I succeeded and sometimes I failed.
He gave broad directions and strategy to the team, but still didn’t tell us what to do or how to do it. We had to figure that out on our own just like he did when he started!
Since then, I’ve grown up, matured and changed. I was once totally naive, impressionable, and parrot-like. 18 years later, I feel more confident in my decisions because they can be backed by my own experience.
So not only is your dad your boss, your sibling is your colleague. Tell us about what that’s like.
My brother is very artistic and a painter at heart. He has great vision and ideas that can be totally outside the box. We don’t often share the same aesthetics, but we talk every single day about our work. Sometimes we agree and sometimes we don’t, but we are very close and will always have each other’s backs.
The advice here is to keep your cool and to stay professional; try to speak to your siblings as you would a colleague. Don’t hit below the belt. Stay respectful. Walk away if the discussion gets too hot!
What are the advantages of working in a family business?
You care so much more about the business when your name is on the product. You are invested all the way. You are representing your family, so there’s a big sense of pride. You can tell the boss anything, you have his/her DIRECT ear. In family-led businesses, everyone is part of the team and is accessible. Many employees who have previously worked at Charriol come back to see us, because they miss the family environment.
What are the disadvantages of working in a family business?
You are constantly talking about business! There is very little room for other discussions. It’s always business even after hours. You take the business everywhere you go.
Plus you usually have to work twice as hard to gain respect. You don’t want others to think that you just got the job because you’re a member of the family. You want coworkers to believe that you are going to work as hard as they are. Best idea is to come in early and be the last one to leave.
Can a family business ruin your personal relationships?
Yes, it can, but you are family so you usually make up and move on. There is little privacy and few boundaries; your personal business becomes everyone’s business. Only with age and experience have I finally been able to establish some boundaries.
So how do you establish those boundaries with your family colleagues?
You set boundaries by communicating what works for you and what doesn’t. I wish you could do it at the beginning of your employment, but usually it happens as time goes by, through trial and error.
What do you do when you disagree with your boss…who’s also your father?
I let him know that I disagree and I tell him exactly what I believe the issue to be. Then we have a good discussion. In the end, he usually comes around because he trusts me.
However, he definitely also loves to remind me he’s in charge because he built this company from the ground up.
Advice: pick your battles. Fight for what you think is really important and let go of anything that’s insignificant. But most importantly, COMMUNICATE!!! That’s where we can all do better.
How does your work life impact your own parenting? How do you find balance?
Finding balance in a working mom life is like finding gold in a river!I t’s rare…but it happens. You have to deal with the constant guilt, and feeling like you never have enough time because you have two full-time jobs: mother and career woman (I won’t list the other 100 jobs we women have).
My work does impact my life, albeit in a good way. My kids are proud of what I do, and hopefully I inspire my own daughter to create and work in her future. I feel fulfilled because I am doing something that I love and I’m financially independent. I often mix business with pleasure on my family trips! I love working with my family — it keeps me motivated and pumped every day. I know they have my back.
3 pearls of wisdom
Do something for YOU once a day that you love, it will make you happier and healthier. If not once a day definitely ONCE A WEEK!!!! This is a good way not to LOSE your sense of self.
Don’t feel guilty!!! Children will remember QUALITY moments over QUANTITY moments.
You can have it all! Marriage (pick the right person who will support you); kids (they will never leave you); career or passion or hobby. You deserve to feel fulfilled! And it doesn’t have to happen at a certain time or in a certain order.