It’s tough owning a business. It’s even more difficult if you’re balancing the dynamics of working with family members. Here are some tips and suggestions on ways to operate your company in a manner that will preserve and strengthen family relationships.
Family businesses are almost universally popular in public opinion. Family-owned companies have strong community ties and understand their own commitments to the community. Such businesses are part of the backbone that drives small business and supports the economy.
The most successful family businesses are passed down from generation to generation, incorporating new ideas while retaining the traditions and strong values that made the business successful in the first place. As rewarding as a family business can be, it can easily turn into a nightmare full of backstabbing and relationships gone wrong.
Family businesses present unique challenges involving distribution of responsibilities, delegation of duties, defined roles, family politics, and emotional considerations.
It is important to play to strengths and fill in weaknesses when distributing responsibilities and assigning duties to family members. Even within families, there is a broad array of skill sets available, just as there are with employees in any other business. Someone will make a good manager, someone will make a good book keeper, and someone will be a good connection to the public. It is essential to honestly assess and identify the strengths and weaknesses of everyone who works in a family business in order to plug them into the best possible role where they are able to use their strengths while being supported by other family members in their weaknesses.
As a family business develops, it is natural that members of the younger generation will grow and develop, learning new skills and training under older generations to eventually take over management of the business. It can be difficult for older generations who have devoted their entire life to developing a business to relax any control over it. And it can be equally difficult for younger generations to accept that control, often seeing it as a betrayal of their older family members who have so capably handled the business over the years. Despite the necessity of having evolving roles that are redefined over time, such transitions cannot happen smoothly without having proper plans in place for when this inevitable situation happens.
Everyone does better in times of transition, even emotionally difficult times, when there is a plan in place. This is also true for when personal matters crop up in the course of business. Irreconcilable conflicts grow up even between employees at businesses where the employees don’t know each other well. In a family business where everyone knows everyone else intimately this issue is magnified many times over.
When you think about your family, you know exactly what their best aspects are, and what their worst attributes are. You know what makes them smile and what pushes their buttons. This can make it tempting to blur the lines between professionalism and personal relationships. This temptation must be avoided, and there must be plans for mediation in place when members of a family business do come into conflict with one another.
In addition to careful planning and distribution of responsibilities, another key to eliminating barriers in operating a family business is to remain emotionally considerate. It is human nature that while in a close, personal relationship with someone, we will say things to those we are close to that we would never say to anyone else. These things could be loving in nature or they could be harsh and inconsiderate. It is important in family businesses to be aware of communication pathways throughout the business. While at work and discussing work-related matters, employees in a family business should attempt to keep things on a professional level and exercise a high level of respect to establish proper channels for resolving problems.
Creating and growing a generational business is a rewarding endeavor that can bring years of joy and prosperity to families if done carefully and with proper recognition of the challenges presented. Alliance Group International can help identify the best business practices for developing a thriving family business. AGI will help optimize sales and distribution channels while reducing business risk. We will work with you to organize information and review areas of your family business that are critical to future success across generations. Give us a call or email us to learn more about the multitude of ways we can engage with you and your business.