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Running a business can be challenging. Raising a family can be challenging. So what happens when you roll them both up into one?
Well, it has the potential to be a double-challenging, high-stakes venture. But if you follow the dos and don’ts of involving family in your business, it can be gratifying and profitable.
Family-owned businesses account for 64% of America’s GDP and are responsible for over 70% of new job growth. So before you start roping in your siblings, parents or in-laws, read through this first.
I’ll outline the best practices, common pitfalls family businesses encounter and how to introduce your family into the mix.
Let’s get started.
Related: 5 Reasons Why ‘Family’ and ‘Business’ Do Mix
Communication is essential
Well obviously. Communication is essential in every area of life. But I wanted to point this out specifically for family businesses because you’re family. You might better understand one another because you’ve been around each other for a long time, but you still have to listen when someone is sharing.
Especially in business matters.
When people talk, they tend to be focused on themselves and what they want to say rather than what the other person is saying. To fix this, start employing active listening skills and be mindful of your emotions while in a conversation. Remember to listen and communicate with your family working with you in the business. This will manage confusion and misunderstandings.
Related: 14 Proven Ways to Improve Your Communication Skills
Learn how to manage conflict
There will always be conflict in business, whether family-owned or not. And that’s a good thing because organizations need to have diverse opinions to grow. But when there’s constant conflict, things can get out of hand. So how can you manage it before it gets to that point?
By anticipating the other person’s reaction and the potential consequences.
You’re probably thinking, “I thought we weren’t supposed to assume what people are thinking,” and that’s a good point.
What I’m talking about here is awareness of your own communication style. Before you say something, think about how the other person could receive it. If you anticipate a negative reaction, don’t say it.
Here’s an example: Your brother Johnny has a new idea for running the business. It’s not particularly good (no offense to your brother), so you tell him that. Now you have two options for how to tell him. One way is to tell him delicately and explain why his idea might not work. The second is to attack his idea and potentially damage your relationship.
Which of the two should you opt for? The first one, right? Good answer.
Related: 6 Strategies to Resolve Conflict at Work
Set good business practices
The key to a good family business is good business practices. This makes sense. Having the best family in the universe doesn’t necessarily mean it will translate to having a good business.
Expectations need to be set. The truth always needs to be told. And guidelines need to be put in place for everyone to follow. Not just employees who aren’t related by blood.
Use the aquarium method
When bringing a new family member into the business, do so slowly, like introducing fish into an aquarium.
When you want to add fish to your aquarium, you do it gradually. You leave them in their bag and let them float in the aquarium water, so they slowly reach the temperature of the water in the tank. Then over a long period, you slowly add small portions of the aquarium water into the fish’s bag. This allows them to acclimate to the water’s chemistry and the environment without shocking them.
The same is true for bringing family members to the business.
My son writes articles and blogs for me, but I didn’t give him a part-time job immediately. He would have drowned. I gave him a topic or video every couple of weeks for him to write until he proved to himself and to me that he was valuable and could handle it.
I did the same thing with my daughter. She was a bit older, so she could handle more work. But she first started helping at my events and taking pictures. Now she’s in charge of all my video marketing. Let your family prove they can handle their job and give them a little at a time. If it doesn’t look like they’re a good fit, don’t hire them.
Hire for what you need, not out of obligation.
This is just a light overview of a family business. There’s so much to make it successful, and I’d need a whole book series to discuss it in depth.
But before you decide to start your own family business or involve them in your current company, remember this:
- Communication is essential
- Learn how to manage conflict
- Set good business practices
- Use the aquarium method
I hope you learned something today. Leveraging your family’s skills and talents can be a great tool, but sometimes it doesn’t work out. It’s up to you to decide whether or not it’s a good idea.
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