As a business owner, working with family members can be a dream that allows you to create opportunities for your loved ones and put their talents to work.
Unfortunately, working with family members can also potentially be a nightmare. From family arguments to issues over the vision and direction of the business, working with people you’re close to can often damage both your relationships and your business.
Like with many other business-related topics, working successfully with family members is all about making the most of their strengths and minimizing the factors that can lead to negative outcomes.
Below, business expert Neil Debenham shares a variety of dos and don’ts for working with family members.
Do give young family members opportunities
Family businesses can create fantastic opportunities for the young and ambitious to develop their skills and gain real-world experience.
If you have young family members who’d like to learn about business — for example, a recent graduate or current university student — offering them a position within your family business is an excellent way for them to gain real, hands-on experience in how a business operates.
Don’t overpay or underpay family members based on your relationship
If you’re considering giving a family member a role within your business, it’s important to pay them based on the role rather than your relationship.
As a business owner, it can be tempting to offer family members an overly friendly deal — for example, an above-market salary or benefits package. While this feels generous, it can often turn into a problem for your business, particularly if other employees find out about it.
Likewise, the opposite — paying a below-market salary based on your relationship with a family member — can cause the person to feel used and underappreciated, affecting their loyalty and performance.
To avoid these common issues, pay based on the role and the person’s experience, not based on their relationship with you.
Do make sure that your roles are clearly defined
A common weak point of family business is a failure to establish and define each person’s major accountabilities and authorities.
This can lead to reduced efficiency, as you and other family members may spend time working on similar tasks. It can also cause you to step on each other’s toes as poorly defined areas of influence lead to conflicting decision making.
To avoid butting heads or wasting time, it’s important to clearly define each person’s role in your business from the beginning. Make it clear who is responsible for what, with specific obligations, tasks and accountabilities for each person that you work with.
This is particularly important when you and a family member are partners in a business. With a clear understanding of who is responsible for what, you’ll both be able to use time effectively to develop and improve the business without responsibility-based conflicts.
Don’t talk about work outside of business hours
One important aspect of working with family members is differentiating between “work time” and “family time,” explains Neil Debenham.
If you work alongside a close member of your family, such as your spouse or another immediate family member, try to avoid talking about work-related tasks and topics when you’re at home or spending time together outside the workplace.
Instead, keep your discussions focused on other aspects of your lives. This not only helps you to avoid bringing your work-related problems home with you, it’s also an important aspect of relaxing, unwinding and preparing for each week at work.
Do set realistic, achievable goals for family members
It’s far from uncommon for family businesses to fall behind the competition in terms of efficiency and results. This is because many business owners and managers don’t set clear, realistic and firm goals for the family members with whom they work.
When it comes to managing a business, the attitude needs to be results first, family second. Set clear expectations for all people within your business and make it clear that being a relative isn’t an appropriate excuse for not taking the business’s objectives seriously.
Above all, be respectful and professional. At home, you’re family — in the workplace, you’re both completely focused on ensuring the business operates and grows as smoothly, successfully and consistently as possible.
Neil Debenham www.neildebenham.com