One Big, Happy Family Business

The biggest sources of pride, camaraderie and joy in our lives are typically our careers and our families. For most of us, careers and families are generally two distinct worlds. We might occasionally have some crossover, but these can easily be separated.

For those relatives working at a family business, however, the two worlds collide each day.

There can be some amazing perks to working alongside family — but there’s also the potential for a lot of heartache and drama.

By taking into account the following guidelines, family members can more fully realize all that family businesses have to offer while steering clear of some of the most frustrating challenges.


Keep Sight of the Most Important Thing

It’s easy to let business matters take over our personal lives, even when we don’t work with family members each day. When you also see colleagues at family events, or even across the home dinner table, this can become even more of a concern.

Adam Toren, an entrepreneur and co-author of a book on leadership for small businesses, was quoted in this CNBC article: “At the end of the day, you can build another business or make more money, but you’ve only got one family for life.”

Keep that in mind as you’re running your family business, and when you’re at home with your loved ones. Failing to prioritize family time or stay in the moment with them will eventually lead to frustration and regret.

One tactic to help in this area is to designate family-only time, when no business discussions are allowed. Examples of family-only time might include holiday celebrations and birthday parties, or even during family meals throughout the week.


Avoid Preferential Treatment in Hiring

Nepotism may be one of the biggest pitfalls for family businesses of any size.

The appearances of favoritism toward family members is a surefire way to breed resentment among non-family employees at any business, and this is especially important when it comes to finding the right person for an open position.

When you hand out jobs to family members rather than strive to find the best candidates, it does more than hurt company morale. It can also seriously hurt your business, because getting anything less than the best qualified person for a position can do untold damage over time.


Communicate Feelings Quickly

Any therapist will tell you that communication is essential for success in any relationship.

Add in the higher stakes and the complicated emotions that go hand-in-hand with working alongside family members, and communication becomes even more important.

Feelings that are pushed aside or ignored tend to explode later — with possible serious consequences for both business and family. To avoid those consequences, family members should address feelings when they first arise.

One key strategy for this type of communication involves using “I” statements, which don’t place blame on others and aren’t likely to make people defensive. For example, phrasing a concern as “I’m feeling upset about how my ideas weren’t considered in the plan” is better than “You never listen to my ideas.” For more basic communication tips, here’s a good article.


Determine Expectations Clearly and Get Them in Writing

Family business relationships are especially at risk for relying on assumptions about others’ feelings and expectations.

Family members often share everything from years of history to family values and personality traits. Because of that, many feel that they don’t have to verbalize certain feelings or expectations — that their family should simply understand them. This holds true in company situations as well as in family gatherings.

However, no one is a mind reader. You’ll save yourself time and trouble if you set clear expectations, including noting who is responsible for which tasks.

It may seem like a stiff formality to get expectations and job descriptions in writing when you’re dealing with close family members, but the clarity that such descriptions provide will make it easier for everyone down the road.


Understand that Needs and Interests Change

When family traditions are passed down from one generation to the next, expectations can be held high and taken personally.

Everyone involved with a multi-generational family business should keep in mind that that businesses must adapt if they are to survive, and that cultures change and families evolve over time.
Each new generation will run the business their own way. The key is to find a healthy blend of tradition and innovation across generations.


Photo credit: Ryan McGuire / Pixabay

No Comments

Post A Comment