Family-Owned Business? Tips for Success

February 24, 2017 Pete Jansons

family-owned business

Working alongside family members to create a thriving small business can make success even sweeter. The long hours seem less grueling with people you care about by your side, and contributing to a common goal adds new depth to your interpersonal bonds.

But before adopting Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” as your small business’s anthem, realize that such an arrangement also provides a unique set of challenges that must be addressed. Here are some common issues family-owned small businesses face and ideas for overcoming them.

Put everything in writing

Who needs a piece of paper when you’re dealing with family, right? Wrong! Spelling things out from the start prevents misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and fights because the written documents serve as a point of reference. Details your small business needs to hammer out include:

  • What are each person’s specific tasks and responsibilities?
  • How will decisions be made?
  • What is the chain of command?
  • How will compensation be determined now and in the future?
  • How will unexpected events such as additional costs and overtime be handled?
  • What are the company’s long-term goals and its succession plan?


Treat people fairly

When it comes to managing family members, small business leaders often fall prey to extremes. They may fail to hold their relatives to the same high standards as other employees, or they may push too hard and be overly critical. Either scenario sets the stage for resentment and discord.

Awareness of this tendency and thoughtful, periodic evaluation can help. Review the job description as for any employee, set benchmarks, and offer positive and negative feedback as merited. Aim for objectivity over emotion, and refrain from dragging personal beefs or family baggage into the discussion.

Prioritize communication

While frequent, prompt communication should be a priority at any small company, it is especially vital at a family business. Undiscussed problems run the risk of causing damage both in and out of the office. Create an atmosphere in which every team member – family or not – is encouraged to speak up. Such openness increases morale and prevents “little” tensions from blowing up.

Leave work at the office

Finally, don’t let your small business get in the way of enjoying time with loved ones outside the workplace. Constantly “talking shop” takes away from nurturing other aspects of your relationship. Try a no-business-at-the-dinner-table rule, cheer on a beloved baseball team together, or simply catch a movie that makes you both laugh. And don’t forget to give each other space. Pursuing individual interests will provide new stories to tell around the water cooler back at the office.

Is work interfering with personal life? Check out 7 Ways to Help Employees Achieve Work-Life Balance.

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