We previously talked about creating a successful home-based business. Often times, home-based businesses are also family-run businesses – whether it be a husband-wife team, or even the kids are helping out to some extend – and so we wanted to dive into how build a successful, drama-free family business. This applies whether you’re home-based or run a shop, because in any business, when it’s family-run, this can be a great benefit to the business, but it can also create different challenges, with serious potential for conflict.
How do you create a drama free business?
The simplest answer is that you have to have agreed upon rules and guidelines for everyone to follow. This includes expectations on behavior.
When creating these guidelines, here’s what you need to take into consideration:
Just like employees, your family members are not going to be great at all roles. If your spouse is not good at talking to people or cold calling – forcing them to be the salesperson could have a negative effect on your business. You also can’t expect everyone to be amazing at everything right away – you need to be able to provide them with training and encouragement to help them succeed. On the reverse side, you can’t just give your family roles they like. Just like you’re probably going to have to do things you don’t like, your family will as well. Packaging t-shirts into individual bags might not be fun, but it still has to be done.
Separate Work & Personal
In any business it’s important to separate your work life from your personal life. However, when you work with your family this can be harder to do. If you have other employees in your business, take a second to think about how they might feel when you’re arguing or discussing personal matters in the shop/office. Probably makes them quite uncomfortable.
Clearly set out the boundaries that you can only talk about work while at work, and on the reverse, you shouldn’t take any work arguments home, and only talk about personal matters while at home.
Problem Solve Early
When issues arrive that concern your family members, you may at first be inclined to let them slide. But just like any other relationship issue you’re having it’s best to address them early on, because this person is more than just an employee. Remembering to keep the professionalism in the office, talk with them, honestly and fairly about the situation and try to come to an agreement.
If no agreement can be met however, you may want to discuss having that family member step away from the business. Family members can be fired. It may be what is best for the business, but also your relationship with them as well.
Teams/departments in any business will often get together to discuss a new idea for their company. And your family business should do this as well, bringing in everyone to the conversation to have their say. It’s important here though, that these discussions have clear outlines and goals, and that everyone keeps the conversation professional. It can be easy to bring in personal arguments to the conversation, or remove the filters, and that will halt any productivity and constructive feedback.
Large businesses often have a board of directors, who have a vote on how things in the company are handled. While you don’t need a twelve person board, consider having an outside mentor. Someone who’s not directly related to you, or your business, but can provide value insight into building a successful business. Perhaps they can even be a mediator of sorts if there are debates – about whether the business should invest in a new machine, they should expand into a new market, etc. This person can provide an objective opinion.
Some people love working with their family all day, and then spending all their free time with them as well. But not everyone’s like that, and even if you are it’s good for your health to have personal time as well. Perhaps it’s a hobby, volunteering, or even just taking some time away from everyone else to read a book.
Everyone has their own identity so it’s important that take time to themselves.
Who’s Taking Over?
In a family run business, the question of succession often comes up. While this may not be something you have to worry about for a while, it’s something that you should still think on, and have a discussion about with your family.
Perhaps your kids don’t want to take over the business, what then? Do you hand it to a relative or simply sell?
If your kids do want to take over the business, and you have more than one, you’re going to need to define some rules and have a solid transition plan. Perhaps this plan includes training on accounting or sales. Whatever it is, start defining it early, so that when you do want to retire the transition is easier for everyone (including your clients).
As a small business, having your family support you and work along side you can be amazing. You’re all working towards a single, common goal. Keep that in mind, and it’ll help you to stay positive, even through all the arguments.
Communication is key to working together. Set your business priorities and give everyone responsibilities that are clearly defined. Work through difficulties together, and ask for help when you need it – whether it be your mentor or a new employee.
Once your family business finds its groove, you may be surprised at how well everyone works together, and how that energy can positively impact your business.