When it comes to running a business as a family, it can be hard getting the balance right. With as many advantages as there are disadvantages to working with loved ones, the way each member is managed is somewhat of more importance in a family run business if the family unit is to survive out of the workplace!
Fortunately, with a little guidance on how to manage the fine line between family and business, it is possible to work as an active family unit and derive some excellent results from this fantastic opportunity to work with those who know you best.
Communication is Key
It may be little surprise to many that most family businesses fail due to the simple lack of communication between its members. It initially appears more natural to work with the family as these are the people that are meant to know you best – however, this can quickly escalate in little to no communication, with each member being left just to guess what the other is thinking, which has no place in the world of business.
Ensure you take time at the very beginning to verbally establish who is responsible for what and what is expected of each family member. At regular intervals refer to these responsibilities in a chat and make sure that all family members are happy. Just as you would do so with other employees, make sure you keep your family members talking to avoid pent-up frustrations and further conflicts down the line.
Leave Your Emotions at The Door
None of us are robots and, whether we realize or not, we all carry some form of emotional conflict into work with us most days. Yet, if you are a family run business, it may be easier to continue with your present emotions once inside the workplace as you have those around you who you would probably turn to at such problematic times. Therefore, family-run businesses need to work harder keeping those emotions firmly at the door!
Once again, approach such issues as you would with other non-family members and discuss the problem first thing, getting it all out and then agreeing on a course of action that allows you all to get on with the job at hand throughout the rest of the day. Perhaps any severe conflicts can be dealt with when it is time to go home, and the workplace is closed for the day. But, gently remind them that there are is time and place for such emotions, and they wouldn’t be allowed to take time out to deal with trivial matters if they worked for someone outside of the family business!
Reward on Competence, Not on Family Ties
A problem that can often arise in many family businesses is when a non-family employee feels they have been unfairly treated in favor of a family member. If you have promoted a family member above a non-family member who was undoubtedly better for that role, you are not only being unfair, but you also place your company in jeopardy with possible union disputes, strikes and even legal action by doing so.
Be a proper manager and manage your family members as you would any other staff. Make sure contracts are drawn up beforehand, pay and holiday are agreed per contract and that the scale of promotion is by competence, not blood! If you find yourself experiencing some resistance to this, it may be a good time to have a restructure of the company and remind certain family members exactly what they are there to do – make a profit!
Do Not Get Involved in Family Conflict During the Workday
Understandably one of the hardest things to do is to remain neutral, and not take a side when there is an external family conflict which is bound to make its way into the family business. This often results in you being asked to take a side. However, you must be resilient here and take a neutral approach. Under no circumstances should you try to engage in the conflict in the workplace.
If certain family members can’t resolve their issues outside of the business they will need to be warned of their behavior and, if necessary, sent home or even disciplined if they continue to show a lack of respect for the working environment. Having a family ar war does not make for good business practice, and you may just have to be the one who takes a stand against it.
Have Fun Together as A Family Outside of The Business
You may spend most working days with your family members and resent the idea of spending any more time with them than is necessary outside of the workplace! Yet, if you run your family business efficiently, you should all be working together as colleagues and therefore the time to bond as a family will not be during the workday.
Organize a day out at least once every month which is purely a family day where everyone working at the business and their partners and children can come along too, and you can all relax together and have fun, in a different capacity to that of being together in the business. This ensures that any disputes, conflicts or any other potential problems are all aired and cleared before you all return to the family workplace and begin your working day again as a close-knit group once more.
Overall, a family business is a hard path to take, and will always present its niggles along the way, but get it right, and this is one of the most rewarding of opportunities for all those members who want to keep their business in the family.