A Family Business Can Be Tricky Business

Written by on July 27, 2012 in Family - Comments Off on A Family Business Can Be Tricky Business | Print this page

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If you’ve ever run your own business then you know that there are very unique challenges that come with being an owner/operator with the most significant being that you never really get to go home. You are your business; where you go, your business follows, whether you want it to or not.  Add running a business with other members of your family and you have a perfect storm for a full scale meltdown.

In any business there can be conflicts, tension, financial stress, and disagreements, so trying to navigate these obstacles with family members can often feel like trying to eat a hamburger with a plunger; it gets complicated and messy really fast.

While avoiding being involved in a family business might be a good choice for some it is definitely not a cure all solution so here are a few helpful tips that might help you navigate this tricky path:

 1)     Have very clear set boundaries:  Whether it’s laying out who does what and what each person’s official title is (regardless of the scale and scope of the business) or the level of financial investment each individual has in the business or is willing to add to it, have these conversations/decisions wrapped up before you even start out together. Already well established? Schedule a coffee date to have this conversation tomorrow.

2)     Have a “No-work-talk” policy and stick to it:  When you work with certain family members it can be hard to resist discussing work at family get-togethers or casual events.  However, everybody needs time away from work and setting a clear line between work and family will go a long way toward allowing all members of the family to have an opportunity to know and enjoy each other outside of the office. 

3)     Don’t think with your heart…all the time:  When it comes to business and family, family should almost always come first. However, be realistic. If you’re going into business, then it’s about business, and when it comes to making a hard decision it is okay to think about the family aspect first but don’t throw the business aspect out the window.  At the end of the day you almost always have to do what’s best for the business,

4)     Have a third-party involved in some way:  Whether it’s an independent accountant or a consultant or friend, have somebody who is not a family member that you can call on to mediate a situation, provide outside perspective or give you unbiased advice. When you’re at ground level it can be next to impossible to see your way out of a sticky family situation so having somebody who can take a look from above will go a long way to keeping everybody focused on the business rather than just the family influence on it.

There is nothing wrong with going into business with your family and in many cases it can be absolutely brilliant.  Just be prepared for a dynamic that will be nothing like any job environment you’ve ever encountered before.  You also need to be very, very realistic about how the business could forever change the way your family functions. Play worst case scenarios in your head. What if certain family members never talk to you again? Think about what you’ll do if the worst case scenario happens and if you think you can survive that? go for it, but be smart.  Listen to your heart but lead with your head.

As always if anybody has any tips, tricks, stories or words of wisdom to share on this subject, please share them.

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About the Author

Jenessa Blanchet

I am a working mother of two, with a passion for writing and lending a literary helping hand to fellow parents and family enthusiasts. Born and raised on the west coast, I have a love of the outdoors; sailing, beaching and all things wonderful including constantly trying to keep a handle on family life. View all posts on Family Life.

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