4 Practical Tips You Can Use to Run a Successful Family Business

Hiring family members to work at your small business has its benefits. Besides their availability to help during a tight labor market, they're also people you can trust from the get-go.

Not surprisingly, however, the dynamic comes with potential problems. Look at these 4 tips on how to avoid the pitfalls associated with family businesses.

Make boundaries clear. Personal matters tend to make their way into the workplace when family members work together, hence the need for clear boundaries. 

Entrepreneur and author Keven Daum in an Inc. blog, recommends setting clear boundaries to keep personal issues away from the work environment. Daum adds that letting it fall on chance or solely on good judgment may likely prove disastrous. 

Strong boundaries help keep your family life and work life in check.

blog on multimedia platform Ramsey Solutions agrees that clear boundaries will help keep a harmonious balance between running a thriving business and home life.

"If you're at work, keep your emotional issues at bay. And if you’re at home, don’t talk about work. After the lights go out, take off your boss or employee hat and just be family."

Actively manage family dynamics. Proactive management of family dynamics is a critical success factor for multi-generational family businesses, says George Isaac, founder, and president of GAI Capital Ltd., a specialized family business consulting firm.

"Have process and agreements for how to deal with family conflict both on and offsite," he suggests. 

In a post on his website, Isaac says most problems in successful family dynamics center on what he calls the 4Cs: consideration, communication, connectivity, and compensation.

"Family stakeholders must feel that their ideas are honestly considered, that they are connected to the business and being kept well informed and that they are being fairly treated financially," he writes. "Specific strategies and initiatives must be developed and agreed upon for all four Cs."

You don't want situations where family issues are left to simmer in the background, causing involved parties to a boiling point. 

"At that stage, disagreements are infinitely more difficult to resolve," Isaac adds.

Treat it like a business first. When working with or launching a business with family members, it's essential to emphasize business vs. family.

A fundamental way to do this is to have a clearly defined plan on roles for everyone, including writing job descriptions, just like you would with positions and contract terms with non-family members.

Undefined roles and terms can become a big problem when it comes to a family launching a startup.

"The dangers can be especially acute," write entrepreneurs Jeff and Rich Sloan in an article posted on StartupNation, the site co-founded by the brothers. 

"Family members sometimes join the excitement of a startup business without a clear idea of their role once the business is underway," their post says. "If family is involved in your startup venture, you should be clear up front about compensation, exit plans and other details before they become a problem.

Look outside the family circle. This is particularly important advice for businesses launched with family members who hold ownership, partnership, or other leadership roles because the decision-making process may get too closed.

The Ramsey Solutions blog notes that businesses that are successful seek out advice from those who are not connected to the enterprise. These advisors, the blog adds, may provide insight on how to find blind spots, create goals or work on relationship problems.

"No matter what, it's important to keep learning, growing, and asking others for advice on how to reach that next stage of success."

Also, don't stop looking outside the family for talented candidates for important positions. "There may be someone outside the family that may help the company perform better," says the Inc. blog quoting Isaac.

Run the business as a meritocracy, he adds. "It will improve performance and keep overall employee resentment to a minimum."

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