The unique challenges of being in business with your family
As I’ve said elsewhere, many family businesses start with the profession of the business owner. The electrician starts an electrical contracting business and the accountant starts an accountancy practice. A little way into the life of the business, the founder of the business, along with the spouse of the founder starts to appreciate that it takes more than being a great accountant to build a great accountancy business or being a great electrician to build a great electrician’s business, and the business flounders.
The family business is born when the spouse decides that “enough is enough” and enters the business as well, not least, to sort out the chaos created by the founder, in order to protect the interests of the family. (Read about my husband and wife coaching here). Over time, such family business can grow to become multi generational organisations with brothers, kids, uncles and cousins involved in the business.
70% Of all businesses in Australia are family businesses and a large percentage of those can be classed as husband and wife family businesses. In my experience there is wonderful opportunity in being in business with your spouse. It holds the possibility of providing for your family very well and there is a great opportunity to grow as a couple. But waking up beside your business partner in bed every morning also comes with a bunch of unique challenges.
What’s so especially challenging about family businesses?
It’s especially difficult to ‘leave work at work’.
Sometimes the spouse who joined as the admin and finance partner (the wife often) can feel like they’ve sacrificed their career for that of the operations partner.
Sometimes the admin partner has joined out of necessity rather than from skill, training or experience in this field.
Relationship dynamics can get in the way of business partnership dynamics.
If the business fails it can wreck the marriage as well.
Uneven power dynamic can cause tensions in the office and at home.
Issues of hierarchy may creep into the relationship.
Hiring can be an obstacle for husband and wife teams.
Investing in a husband-wife business looks risky for outside investors
Do you experience some of those challenges in your family business as well? Most husband and wife partnerships do, but there is no reason why you can’t can’t learn to move past those challenges. In my experience, the key is clarity. Clarity about your respective roles, who does what and who is responsible for what, clarity about the Purpose of the business, clarity about direction and long term goals.
Such clarity has to be discovered and built. My Five Steps to Discovery Process is all about discovering and building on that clarity, check it out and take the first steps towards your own clarity. The Five Steps Process is mostly free and without any obligation, sales or nonsense, just clarity, insight and practical next steps. More here.
When you get it right, when you get a husband and wife family business really working, there is nothing more satisfying. The two of you will develop your relationship to an entirely different level, the business will thrive and your family life will start to feel like a true partnership… I promise you
You may also want to have a look at the website of Family Business Australia. There are a bunch of great resources and information there as well. Follow this link
How do you compare against Bey and Jay?
Complete the Beyoncé and Jay-Z Family business survey to find out how you compare against the most famous husband and wife family business partnership in the music biz. It’s fun and takes just a few minutes and if you and your spouse complete the survey it will lead to some powerful conversations that will open the door to new opportunities in how you work together.
More reading and resources for husband and wife family business owners:
I have a comprehensive list of resources for family business on this page here
Each of the 7 Big Questions has a dedicated page on this website, with links to many relevant resources both within my website as well as throughout the internet. Scroll down or click on the links above for a summary of each of the 7 Big Question with a link to that question’s full page.
Summary: To build aBeautiful Business and Life, we need growth. Seth Godin made a great statement some years ago on his blog. He said: To build a great business you only have to do two things: first you have to do great work or deliver a great product and second you have to make sure lots of people know about it. And that’s exactly how simple it is to build a Great Business that Stands the Test of time. But, as with so many things in life, it’s easier said than done.
Business growth is about research and product and systems and quality assurance and innovation and inventory management and people management and everything in between and then when you get that right, it’s about customers, and marketing and sales and social media and communications and PR and SEO and content marketing and advertising and design and branding and of course leadership and you might well argue that before all of that comes Visioning, Mission, Purpose, Goal setting and Strategic planning. In short Business growth touches all aspects of business. Read More Here…
Summary: To build a Beautiful Business and Life, we need to make profit. A business that doesn’t make profit and that doesn’t generate cash flow isn’t a business, it’s a hobby. Profit is not the Purpose of business, and nor is generating Cash the reason the business exists, but without profit and cash it is not possible for the business to deliver on it’s Purpose.
Business growth will have an impact on the flow of profit and money in the business, both positively and negatively, but many other aspects of business have an impact as well. There’s pricing, discounting, inventory management, costing, trade terms , collection policies and procedures, expense management, cost control and many other aspects of business will determine the profitability and sustainability of your business.
And on the other hand there is financial management. The management , reporting and analysing of the flow of profit and money through the business. Having your fingers on the pulse of all of the key indicators of the health of your business every day, week, month and year. Management of the numbers in other words. Read More Here…
How can I become less overwhelmed and feel happier every day?
Summary: To build a Beautiful Business and Life, we need to get unstuck. In my experience, business owners operate in a state of overwhelm many days of the week. They’re often first in the door in the morning, last out the door at night and have to catch up on their admin and email after dinner. They run around from crisis to crisis most days, extinguishing brush fires along the way.
Staff don’t seem able to tie their own shoe laces without input and supervision from the boss. Customers expect the business owner personally to solve all their problems, immediately, rather than the perfectly qualified and expensive staff that are employed by the business for that purpose.
As a result, the critical business development projects are constantly pushed back and the business gets stuck in the mud. The way out of this overwhelm is to learn to focus on three letters FUN. Fun in Business is the opposite of overwhelm. Developing a discipline on making Business Fun again works, because when business is fun it means everything is working. Read More Here…
How can I find the right support, advice and guidance?
Summary: To build a Beautiful Business and Life, we need support. One of the most consistent complaints I hear from business owners is that it’s all down to them. They feel alone and unsure of themselves. They need to have a sounding board. The people around them don’t get it. The staff are affected by the decisions the business owner needs to make, and so are their spouses and family.
Human beings work well with external accountability and advice. Independent external support is invaluable to any business owner who wants to build a Great Business that Stands the Test of Time. External support can take many forms: A mentor, a business or life coach, management consultant, a virtual board, an executive coaching group, a regular get together with a group of fellow business owner buddies or all of the above.
One thing is for sure: Don’t think you can do it on your own. But how do you go about finding the right support for you? Read More Here…
How can I find work-life-balance in my business and my life?
Summary: To build a Beautiful Business and Life, we need to create a balance between the demands of the business and those of the rest of our lives.
In the many years I’ve worked with business owners, I’ve come to believe that business owners are the most ‘guilt driven’ people on the planet, “worse than Catholics” I sometimes joke. Business owners generally go through life believing they are not up to the job in some way. They tell themselves (and me), that to compensate for their perceived failures, they’ve got to work harder than anyone else in their business or else how could they ever ask their people to put in the hard yards when required? (see also what I wrote above about overwhelm). But in the mean time they’re missing out on the important stuff in life. Their health and well-being suffers, as are their families.
For business owners to create a greater balance between work and life, the first step is to acknowledge that owning a business is never a 9-to-5 job, you probably won’t ever be able to close the door behind you on the way home entirely. The business is your baby, you’ve put your heart and soul into it and it’s part of who you are as a person.
Once you acknowledge that fact, the immediate next step is to recognise that your own time, your health and your general well-being are the most valuable and important assets of your business and as the business owner it is your prime responsibility to look after your assets. In other words, not looking after yourself and ensuring you are in a great physical and mental state means you are not taking your responsibilities as the owner of the business seriously. Once you’ve learnt to accept the realities of those two principles (contradictory as they might seem from time to time), you’re on the path to create the business and life you dream off. Read More Here…
How can I become a better business owner and leader?
Summary: To build a Beautiful Business and Life, we have to become better business owners. As I’ve said above in the “work – life – balance” summary, most business owners feel they’re not quite cutting it as entrepreneurs. Oftentimes, business owners start their business on the back of their profession, trade or skill they have learnt (plumber, architect, accountant, chef) and they feel confident in that particular skill. But when they start a business based on that profession, they suddenly realise that it takes a lot more than being a great plumber to build a great plumbing business.
Few business owners have studied to be a business owner, and even those who have attained an MBA or similar qualification, find that they’re not prepared for the realities of life as a small business owner. Suddenly everything is down to you, the big decisions about whether or not to bid for that contract, or hire that expensive employee, or sign the lease for the new office, as well as making sure the toilets are stocked with toilet paper and that there’s ink for the printer.
To top it off, your people look to you for having vision, having the answers and being the leader. It’s a frightening place to stand in the middle off, but there are three pieces of good news: (1) You got this far and you’re still breathing so you must be doing something right. (2) Your people actually want you to be the leader and they’re ready to forgive you just about any balls up you’re going to make along the way. (3) Leadership is something you can learn, practice and get better at. Read More Here…
Family business: How can we negotiate our roles as business and life partners better?
Summary: To build a Beautiful Family Business and Life, we need to get good, both at working with our spouses as well as living with them. As I’ve said above in the “better business owner” summary, many businesses are founded on the profession of the business owner. The plumber starts a plumbing business and the lawyer starts a law practice. A little way into the life of the business, the founder of the business, along with the spouse of the founder starts to appreciate that it takes more than being a great lawyer to build a great lawyer business and the business flounders.
Often, it is at this point that the spouse decides to enter the business as well, to sort out the chaos, in no small measure, to protect the interests of the family, and the family business is born. 70% of all businesses in Australia are family businesses and a large percentage of those can be classed as husband and wife family businesses.
In my experience there is wonderful opportunity in being in business with your spouse. It holds the possibility of providing for your family very well and there is a great opportunity to grow as a couple. But waking up beside your business partner in bed every morning also comes with a bunch of unique challenges. Read More Here…
The day I realised my business skills didn’t match my builder’s skills
In 1984 I came to Australia full of enthusiasm and confidence that I was going to set the world on fire. After a few detours I started a building company, renovating houses in the inner city. I did well, as a builder. There are not a lot of streets in the innercity suburbs of Sydney where I haven’t had something to do with at least one house in the street. My building skills were up there with any builder in Sydney.
My business skills however?
For the first years, the businesses operated on the edge of disaster nearly all the time. Perennially short of cash, paperwork piling up, behind on the quoting… I was overwhelmed, and the business (or I) wasn’t going to survive for the long term.
My wife at the time, (we divorced 20 years later, but that’s an entirely unrelated development) was concerned. She could see what was going on and she worried that I and the business were going to go under unless something changed. So she suggested that she join the business and take control of the back office, the systs and procedures, financial management and HR, allowing me to focus on the stuff I was good at.
And she did… Long story short, we became a family business and things turned around and 20 years later we sold the business to my junior partner, allowing us the room to move on in other directions.
Mum and Pop against the world
Turning the business into a ‘husband and wife’ operation was the best thing that happened to me as a business owner. Until that time, I’d felt alone, unsure of myself, overwhelmed and frustrated, and although I wouldn’t have admitted it out loud at that time, the business was definitely not in a good place. From the moment my wife became involved, fully, I had someone to share my challenges with, to brainstorm with, to plan and strategise with. And I was able to let go of business functions that were not my strong suits (read: that I was hopeless at).
In family businesses, it is often the case that one of the partners starts the business on the basis of his or her profession or trade and then at some later stage the spouse joins the business to take control of some of the functions of the business that the founder of the business has trouble with.
As a business coach I specialise in working with such husband wife business partnerships, because although being in business with your spouse can be enormously rewarding and many great businesses have been built on the back of a marriage, there is also another side of the coin.
The other side of the coin looks quiet different.
Waking up beside your business partner every morning comes with it’s own set of unique challenges. Here are just some of them:
It can be incredibly difficult to learn to ‘leave work at work’, if you’re waking up besides your business partner every morning.
Sometimes the spouse who joined the business (my wife in my story above) can feel like they’ve sacrificed their career for that of the partner. Resentment is one of the most destructive emotions in any kind of relationship.
Sometimes the admin partner has joined out of necessity rather than from skill, training or experience in this field.
Relationship dynamics can get in the way of business partnership dynamics.
If the business fails it can wreck the marriage as well.
I’ve written an article on my blog recently about some ofthose challenges, here. And there is a great article on the Smart Company blog about a bunch of business couples who have been successfulhere.
My wife and I experienced many of the challenges listed above as well. I’m happy to say that we managed our way through them. I think we both felt it was the honesty of our communication about the challenges that made the difference, along with the fact that we accepted the challenges as real and important, right from the beginning. We also engaged invaluable external help at various stages in our journey.
The Beyoncé and Jay-Z Family Business Survey
So how are the pros and cons of family business balancing out in your circumstances?
I have created a special survey that may help you and your spouse initiate a series of powerful conversations about the state of your business and home relationships. Inspired by the power-couple of the music business, the survey is called the Beyoncé and Jay-Z Family Business Survey.You can access it on my website here. It consists of only 12 questions and should take you more than a few minutes to complete.
The most effective way to use the survey is for both you and your spouse to complete the 12 question survey separately and then to sit down, compare and discuss the results with each other. In your discussion, practice curiosity: “I see you scored question 3 quiet low, a lot lower than I scored it. I’d love to hear how come you gave that score there”. The conversations that follow will start to change your business and your life… I promise you.
Family Business Australia is a great organisation that supports family businesses in Australia. Have a look attheir website, here. There is a special Family Business resources page on my website here, and there is a page about how I help husband and wife family business owners make business fun again here
I have collected a bunch of great resources and information for family business and husband and wife business owners. If you come across any particularly good E-books, articles, infographics, videos or links yourself or better yet if you have created any yourself, please let me know so I can add them here.
How do you ‘leave work at work’ when you sleep with your business partner?
Creating work-life-balance is the holy grail for all of us small business owners, but for husband and wife family business partners, being 100% ‘not-at-work’ can feel like an unattainable dream.
Husband and wife business partnerships can be really satisfying, they can be great vehicles for making money while allowing a couple to grow and develop together. But family businesses come with a unique set of challenges. (More about husband and wife family businesses here on Medium.com)
Clients of mine, let’s call them Bill and Lauren, have built a construction company together that turns over about $10M per year. Bill completed a carpentry apprenticeship straight out of high school and went back to school in his late twenties to get a building diploma, before starting his building company and Lauren is a qualified accountant. Bill and Lauren got married 10 years ago and Lauren joined the business to take control of the finances, the admin and HR systems. Now, they’re both getting to their forties, they have two young children, a dog and a rabbit.
Bill and Lauren have an office away from home, but neither of them have been very successful at closing the office door behind them at the end of the day. Lauren generally goes home around 3.30 and organises things at home and Bill makes it home around 5.30 most days. The conversations around the dinner table are all about the various crises and challenges of the day at work and planning and worrying about the ones they see in the immediate future.
After dinner laptops
After dinner, both of them tend to sit on their laptops, to complete the stuff they’ve fallen behind on during the day. Bill to finish quotes and Lauren to manage the rosters and budgets.
In the morning, Bill has to be at the office or on site at 7.00 am every day (the building industry starts early), so he generally leaves home around 6 am and Lauren organises the kids before heading for the office around 8.00 am.
On the weekends, there are the usual commitments around the children’s activities and shopping, but most minutes that aren’t taken up by ferrying the kids from soccer to birthday parties or standing in line at the Woolworth’s checkout are occupied with work. Bill and Lauren’s conversations, their time and their brainspace is rarely completely free of some preoccupation with work.
Bill and Lauren never used to mind working hard and doing long hours, they’ve both always felt they’re building something valuable and important for their family, but over the past couple of years they’ve started to become worried that the best parts of family life are passing them by, that by the time they’ve finished building that valuable and important thing for their family, they will have missed out on what actually matters.
I often work with family business owners and this experience of not being able to ‘leave work at work’ is a never ending refrain.
Two sides to the coin
To be fair, there are two sides to this coin. Knowing that your husband or wife really gets what goes on for you in your role as a business owner can be a great feeling and help you deal with your challenges and stresses more effectively. Some of my other clients can only dream of really being able to share their work challenges with their partners regularly. The most often repeated complaint I hear from single business owners is that they feel alone and overwhelmed.
But that doesn’t make Bill and Lauren’s challenges any less important.
In the past Bill and Lauren have tried to set rules around bringing work home. But usually one or the other will have a crisis within a week of setting the rule, and before you know it it’s back to the old patterns again.
A new approach
We took a different tack 6 months ago. I’ve told them that it is unrealistic to imagine they’ll ever be able to close the door to the office behind them completely. What’s more, that’s not even desirable. It’s actually not so bad spending a bit of time after the kids have gone to bed catching up on some work, or preparing for the next day and it can be quite pleasant discussing the strategy for the week ahead with each other, on the couch on Sunday evening with a glass of wine in hand. This is the other side of the coin I mentioned above, it’s one of the things that can make family businesses special and effective, as much as they can be stress inducing. It’s all in the balance.
This is what we did 6 months ago and with few exceptions Bill and Lauren have been able to stick to the system.
All Sunday until after dinner is a work free zone. Family breakfasts, outings, picnics, watching movies, playing games, walking the dog, catching up with family and friends. Sunday during the day is sacrosanct.
On Sunday evening, the two of them plan their week from a work, family and personal perspective together. The only rule is that one of the evenings of the week is to be work free and just about the two of them. They can go out or stay in, but one evening per week is just for them, no kids no work no nothing else.
Weekday dinners are family time, the 4 of them eat together at the dinner table, no TV and no work talk, until dinner is over and cleaned up
Permission to fail
The keys to the success of this system are its flexibility, the Sunday evening planning time, and the allowance in the system for failure. By acknowledging that in their life, every week is going to be different, by taking 15 minutes to plan each week, and finally by allowing that sometimes plans go awry and that when they do it’s not the end of the world, it just means you need to make a new plan again; Bill and Lauren’s life has transformed.
Being in business together is Fun again.
As I mentioned above I work with Husband a Wife business owners a lot, because I lived the husband and wife business partner experience myself. I have written about my own experience here. I only ever work with people I enjoy working with, but helping turn a family business around give me the greatest buzz of all. Have a look at my web page about Family business here and download the 10 point check list about marrying your business partner. If you are in a family business you might also want to have a look at Family Business Australia here. The website has some great resources for couples who are in business together. I have also created my own family business resources page here.
Please also feel free to check out some of my testimonials from husband and wife family business owners here. You may also find my article about laying the foundations of a great business interesting here
Do you and business partner wake up in the same bed every day?
I specialise in working with husband and wife family business partners to help them discover and build their own Beautiful Business and Life and then build it. Typically, businesses such as these are built on the profession of one of the couple. Husband and wife family businesses like these make up the majority of small business partnerships in Australia. Often (but not always of course) it is the husband’s trade or profession that lies at the foundation of the business, and he runs the operations of the business (the work of the business), while the wife runs the marketing, finances, the HR issues, and the admin.
“Roland helped us get clear on our roles and responsibilities in the business and find a realistic balance between work and home life again… Business is Fun again”
Mark and Linda
A husband and wife family business partnership such as this can be highly satisfactory and profitable and what’s more, it can allow the couple to grow and develop together. But there are also a bunch of unique challenges to developing a small family business and having it become a Beautiful Business that Stands the Test of Time. More about the unique mental health and personal wellbeing challenges of running a family business on this page. If you’re ready start to discover and build your own Beautiful Business and Life, click here now to book in a Discovery Session with me as part of my Five Steps to Discovery Process.
Complete the Bey and Jay Family Business Survey
Take the Beyoncé and Jay-Z Family Business Survey, to find out how you rate against the world’s most famous married business partners. Complete the questionnaire here. It will take you no more than a few minutes to complete and you will receive a 2 page report with your score, showing where you sit on the Bey and Jay Family Business Scale. Ideally you and your spouse should both complete the survey independently and then compare results.
We love being life- as well as business partners, we’ve learned to communicate at a completely different level with each other and we both love standing in the centre of our lives having this great sense of control.
Anh and James
Here is a cool info graphic about how to make a success of being in business with your spouse on the Business Families Foundation website
What you can expect when working with me:
This is how I’ll help you build a Beautiful Family Business that supports your family rather than fights with it:
Develop absolute clarity about your roles and responsibilities in the business, allowing both of you to relax knowing that the important stuff is handled every day and every week.
Implement better bookkeeping, workflow management and project management systems. Your fingers on the pulse of all the key indicators of the health of your business, as opposed to keeping your fingers crossed.
Develop absolute clarity abut the Purpose of your business; the reason your business exists and why anybody else would care about that. Know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there.
Build relationships with the right people. Referral marketing is the most powerful way to build your business.
Develop marketing strategies that mean you get to build your business with the right type of clients. Clients walk in the door, wanting to do business with you.
Develop and implement Quality Improvement systems that allow you let your staff get on with things confident the work will be consistent. Make your business run like a Swiss clock.
Develop and implement better hiring systems so you can be sure you get the right people on the bus
Create a balance between work and home that is practical and flexible; Learn how to ‘leave work at work’ when it needs to be left there.
“One of the reasons we decided to go out on our own was to increase not just flexibility but we wanted freedom of choice … to be the masters of our destiny and that is definitely one of the benefits of running a husband and wife business.”
Kylie and Jake
Complete the Bey and Jay Family Business Survey
Don’t forget, take the Beyoncé and Jay-Z Family Business Survey, to find out how you rate against the world’s most famous married business partners. Complete the questionnaire here and you’ll receive a 2 page report usually in hours.. It will take you no more than a few minutes to complete. Ideally you and your spouse should both complete the survey independently and then compare results.
It’s fun thing to do and it will lead to some great conversations between the two of you… I promise you
Just Five Steps to Discovery
If you recognise some of the challenges of being in business with your spouse, above and you’d like to explore how I can help you overcome some of those everyday struggles and start to make the most of the exciting opportunities as a couple in business, click here to book in a free Discovery session as part of my Five Steps to Discovery Process.
Read here about Five Steps to Discovery Process, to help you discover and build your own Beautiful Business and Life.
Further reading and resources
More about the various forms of business support, guidance and advice that are available to small business owners here
What I learned from my mother in the last weeks of her life.
My mother died in July last year. I spent the last few weeks of her life with her every day. She knew she was about to die and what’s more she was looking forward to the journey. A couple of months off her 90th birthday, she’d had enough of the medical efforts that were needed to keep her alive and she believed that there was a new adventure waiting for her. As she said a few times to me: “I have packed my backpack, it’s sitting near the front door, all that remains is for me to take off this coat I’m still wearing and then I’m off”.
The last weeks of our lives together were incredible. Many people have come up to me since her death and wished me strength and love in these tough times and offered me their shoulders to cry on. And it’s lovely that people have, but I wish I could explain to them how I don’t feel the need for sympathy. I actually feel relieved, content, satisfied and lucky, grateful even.
It’s not that I didn’t love my mother, and that I’m glad she’s gone, far from it, we were very close. No doubt I’ll miss her in the coming years, probably for the rest of my life. I feel emotional from time to time, I feel sad sometimes, and confused maybe, unsure what’s going on, all of that, but none of the emotions I feel are negative.
Nor were the last stages of my mother’s life easy, not at all. There was pain and suffering and in the end my mother died from suffocation. I can assure you there’s nothing fun in that.
But it was all good and it still is.
It’s a cliché and it nevertheless bears repeating: We are all going to die.
None of us can avoid it.
And that fact is neither good nor bad, it simply is.
Yet we spend so much of our lives pretending that this fact relates to other people, not us.
We avoid thinking about death and dying and we don’t plan for it and we don’t talk about it and we don’t let the fact of our death and the process of our dying interfere with the pursuits of our lives and our bucket list.
Let’s Organise a Death Shower
And then when it does happen to us, we act as if we never saw it coming. We spend 9 months or more preparing for the arrival of a baby, from organizing support during and after the birth, to organizing our work life, to getting the baby’s room ready. How about holding a “Death Shower” to balance out the saccharine sweetness of the “Baby Shower”?
I am in awe of how my mother prepared and planned for her death. Not just in the last few weeks, but over the past 30 years. She looked the facts of life right in the eye and didn’t shy away from them. Her greatest fear was that she’d end up in a hospital bed in a nursing home. And she realised that to avoid the nursing home, she’d need to organise her life differently.
Getting involved in the community
She set about doing exactly that. She sold the house she’d lived in since 1957 and found a house that she’d be able to manage when becoming increasingly decrepit. She also got involved in local neighborhood services and volunteered in the community. Part of her motivation for doing so was to be well connected when the time came for her to need that community herself.
She did these things and various others and she was very clear and open about them. For her it was all part of the process.
And the thing is, she succeeded. She died in July in her own cozy home, looking at her beloved garden, cared for by her local community and with the people that mattered most to her around her.
And she was content, and she felt good and so did we all.
Pain and suffering is part of the process.
It was a truly special experience for me. I actually have a lump in my throat as I write this, not because of any negative sense of sadness, rather because of the beauty of it.
We are all going to die, and pain and suffering will probably be part of the process. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with that. The GP who looked after my mother said at some point in one of our conversations: “You know I often think that we get too fixated about wanting to avoid suffering at the end of life. There is a lot of pain and suffering in child birth and maybe at the other end, it is also rightly part of the process”.
I’m not sure of course, one death hardly makes me an expert. What I do know is that the process of growing old and dying fully scares the Living Daylights out of me, but I am nevertheless going to face the facts of life and think, plan and talk about my death.
Just like my mother did.
#Death #Dying #LifeAndDeath
I’ve zest for life and a passion for all things business. I’ve spent many years consulting, designing and building solutions for small businesses. For more of my thoughts and musings on life and business, subscribe to my blog below:
The pitfalls and the secrets of hiring family members in your business
Business and family don’t mix, is the old adage. And I’ve certainly seen the mixture blow up in a bunch of instances, but what about the many many family businesses out there that have done very well and been around a long time. Say what you will, but the Murdochs, Packers and Trumps are nothing if not succesful business families. So why are we so concerned about introducing family members into our businesses, and how can we avoid the worst of the pitfalls?
First of all, I think the problem with family and business, or for that matter friends and business, is not so much that it is more likely to fail than a normal business, but that if it fails it can cause so much collateral damage. Whole families can be ripped apart over a family partnership that disintegrates. If the manager of department X turns out to be an incompetent idiot, you as his direct report can simply leave. It may be inconvenient, but you’ll find another job and life moves on. But if that same manager is uncle Jimmy and the company was started by your father, and you have to sit at the same Christmas lunch table with Uncle Jimmy next month, then the situation becomes much more complicated.
The business owner’s dream
I’m not going to sit here and tell you never to hire a family member into your business. Most business owners dream of having their children join the business and have the thing they created be a vehicle for bringing the family closer and making life more comfortable for the family. In my days as a builder I often imagined that it would be really nice to have one or all of my kids become involved in my business. It’s how we roll as business owners, and it’s one of the reasons, I believe business owners on average are happier people as a group (more about business and happiness here) .
So how do we minimise the inherent risks of causing major family dramas when getting the clan involved in The Business.
From everything I’ve seen over the years I think there are four principles to managing family business well:
Acknowledge that it isn’t always going to be easy. Allow for the fact that just because we are family, doesn’t mean we all have the same values and beliefs or the same work ethic or for that matter the same priorities in life. Sure, family is important for most of us, but my own kids are still more important to me than uncle Jimmy’s kids.
Depending on the size of the organisation, ensure you have regular meetings (monthly ideally) in which issues can be tabled and resolved. The format of the meetings is dependent on circumstances. If there are two family members in a large organisation, it’s probably a good idea for those two people to go and have a drink every month and compare notes. But if a significant number of the employees of a business are all part of your family, organise a once a month family meeting, in which irritations and grievances are aired and worked through.
Take the time to set up job-role-descriptions and expectations for all employees in the business, but especially for the family members. There is nothing so destructive as a family member in a business who doesn’t actually know what is expected from him or her. Job descriptions, clarity about what constitutes “great work”, clarity on deliverables and KPIs… Take the trouble to set them up and hold people, family members especially, accountable to them.
Ensure that there is great clarity about how people move up the ladder in the company. Family members especially must know that there is a quid pro quo: Not unless you deliver XYZ and you have proven to be good at your current role, will you be considered for promotion: Just because you are my son, doesn’t mean you will be promoted beyond what you proven yourself capable of.
Involving your family in your business can destroy your family just as much as it can bring your family closer together and be an incredibly rewarding experience. Follow the four principles above and you give yourself the best opportunity to create the latter… I promise you.
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