5 keys to family business success
Starting a business can be a risky venture and doing it as a family might seem like an easier and safer option. However, without clear rules, a family business can turn out to be a nightmare – and bring a lot of drama in the personal circle.
Here’s our five keys to family business success:
Set crystal clear boundaries
It is always hard to stop talking about work when you are really invested in your job. It is even harder if you share a home, weekend meals and/or family gatherings with your co-workers. This is the reason why it is extremely important to set very clear boundaries from the start. Try to keep business talk in the office and family issues at home.
As human beings, we all have emotions and bottling them up has proven to be a rather unhealthy solution. Most of us do get emotional at work: sometimes workmates disappoint us, difficult customers make us angry, or reaching business goals can make us happy. It is alright to be expressive at work, as long as we keep it professional – even if it means taking a step outside the office for a while to calm down. Our emotions are naturally a lot stronger with family members and it might be more difficult to keep it professional. It is of the utter importance not to mix personal and business: if you had an argument with your husband/wife, don’t carry it into the office. Leave it at home! On the other hand, if you have a disagreement at work, keep it there.
Define roles and responsibilities
The first key for family business success is the definition of each family member’s role in the company. Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of each person in an official document, such as the company’s internal regulations or a shareholders’ agreement. The signature of this document by all members should prevent a lot of headaches, frustrations and many disagreements and conflicts. Thinking about the worst case scenario can also be good for the company in the long term. Additionally, you might want to suggest including rules and solutions. This could help ensure the company’s sustainability.
Treat your company as a business
It might be easy to forget when you work with family, but you need to treat your company as a business. It means making sound business decisions, whatever the consequences might be for your loved ones. Compassion is not always good for business. For example, if your aunt begs you to give your lazy cousin a job because he just got fired from yet another company, think as a businessperson and not as a family member.
It works the same way when you try to hire someone: keep in mind that sometimes a member of your clan might not have the best background or set of skills for the job. It is especially important for small businesses who cannot afford to hire many people, you have to make sure the employees you have are highly qualified and good at what they do.
Put everything in writing
Because you are working with your everyday people, it’s still necessary to put everything in writing. This is a vital step towards safeguarding your business. It is not enough to put in writing everyone’s roles and responsibilities in an official document, you need to use written communication for everything. This means: using emails to communicate, writing reports when an incident happens, or asking your partners to “put that in writing” after a conversation.
Get external advice
This is particularly relevant when writing official documents for the company, dealing with conflicts, or hiring new employees. You could be too involved in your business and an external pair of eyes could be particularly helpful. An outsider might also come up with interesting feedback and fresh ideas to ensure your company’s future.
Maintaining the balance between personal and professional is a lot harder in a family business, but it can also be extremely rewarding. Using these five keys to family business success will open the door to a safer future for your company and a healthier dynamic for your family.