How To Balance A Family Business With Family Values: 13 Tips
Many founders dream of owning a business that strengthens familial bonds and can be passed down from generation to generation. While some manage to create such an ideal situation, for others, the pressure of constantly trying meet both the business’s needs and those of the family can become overwhelming.
To help avoid this, members of Forbes Coaches Council share 13 tips that members of a family-owned business can use to balance the needs of a thriving business with those of a healthy family and avoid unwanted conflict and tension.
1. Adopt Clear Agreements For Conflict
In business, sometimes you will have to disagree; but you don’t have to allow dysfunctional family dynamics or outdated generational communication norms to control how the conflict plays out. Family business partners and team members will benefit from having proactive discussions and getting alignment on what you will and will not do when you disagree. – Christine Grimm, Aria Consulting International
2. Leverage Open And Trusting Conversations
You have your family for life. If the business starts to interfere negatively with the relationships in the family, then there is imbalance. Open and trusting conversations about needs of the business and expectations for the family are paramount. Everyone may think and act differently. Does everyone feel included? Are there challenges to be discussed? What does the group care most about? Talk. – Denise Russo, School of Thoughts
3. Gain Clarity On Values And Expectations
Become clear on your core values and identify common values across your personal and professional life. Be clear on your purpose for being in business and your lifestyle expectations. Facilitate an open discussion with family members to develop a shared purpose, values and set of expectations to enable an understanding of how time is spent and prioritized between family and business. – Simi Rayat, Wellbeing Face Ltd
4. Recognize The Pros And Cons
Family businesses present unique challenges. They often reward people for their lineage and not for their true performance. This can hurt the credibility of the business in the eyes of its customers and stakeholders. At the same time, members of a family business can be very open and aware of what they need to do to follow a fair (not just blood-related) process to improve and connect. – John M. O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.
5. Decide On Key Priorities First
Our families sustain us when nurtured with love, attention and patience. However, families can also bring more stress to stressful business situations. To manage competing values in family-owned businesses, decide on key priorities, such as family coming first and spending family time together. Then, hold yourself accountable by following through. Make a binding contract with your family and stick to the guidelines. – Lillian Gregory, The HumEx Institute
6. Create Boundaries Between Work Time And Family Space
In my experience, a powerful way to support and balance the needs of each member is to define roles and create boundaries between work time and family space. Revising the business or project objectives and mission together is a good reminder that we can have different perspectives, but we are building something together. Don’t take anything personally; stay humble and receptive. – Michelle de Matheu, The Mind, Body & Soul Stylist
7. Remember Why You Started
Balancing the needs of the family with the needs of a family-owned business can be problematic. One way to manage this is to remember why the business started in the first place. Most family-owned businesses were created to allow for more quality family time and to provide a legacy for the family. With that stated, the problem isn’t the business; the problem is losing sight of why it was created. – D Ivan Young, Dr. D Ivan Young
8. Get Clear On The Impact
Family businesses are challenging because of the overlapping of family, business and ownership. Each decision has a qualitative and quantitative impact where emotions and economics are at play. Going into one system and creating a technical solution will only work if there are skills and the capacity and alignment needed to execute on them. Joint problem-solving and managing conflict are most important. – Natalie McVeigh, EisnerAmper
9. Clearly Define Roles
Have open, honest conversations about where boundaries are between family and business. Define what you are willing to do for the business and where you will stop because it will impact your family relationships or values. Additionally, know who in the family is responsible for what in the business. Clearly defined roles go a long way! – Anna-Vija McClain, Piccolo Marketing
10. Let Individuals Grow Into Their Passion
You cannot inherit passion! Typically, what I see in family businesses is varying degrees of passion, which leads to misalignment that spills over into personal relationships. All members must be allowed to individually create and grow through struggle and crisis. The grit of struggle breeds passion for the result! – Brad Cousins, Ingage Human Capital Strategies
11. Share A Positive Vision
Working together as a family requires clear shared values and the same positive vision about the goal toward which you are working together. The decision-making mechanisms must be clear and effective. Private interests that are contrary to the corporate goal should remain outside. Roles and competencies should be assigned according to ability, not according to family affiliation. – Michael Thiemann, Strategy-Lab™
12. Don’t Let Business Intrude Upon Family Time
One problem that can arise for members of a family business is a constant intrusion of business upon family time. Successful family-business owners set clear boundaries. For example, they might say, “This is our vacation, and we are not going to discuss work at all, or only at set times.” If such demarcation is not observed, it can harm the family ties, including alienating nonparticipating family members. – Darlene Murphy, Coachworth, LLC
13. Conduct A Values Exercise
I would start by conducting a values exercise for all family members, to flush out where personal values intersect and/or are in conflict. It is critical for all family members to know where each other stands. Once work begins on the business strategy, I would facilitate by incorporating the stated values into conversations to help determine priorities and next best courses of action. – Karan Rhodes, Shockingly Different Leadership
Top business and career coaches from Forbes Coaches Council offer firsthand insights on leadership development & careers.