Tips for Running a Family Business
Running a business is hard work — especially when it’s a family business. The emotional complexity of working with relatives can both enhance and detract from professional activities.
It doesn’t matter if you’re inheriting an existing business, you’re a veteran entrepreneur running a thriving startup, or you’re an ambitious college grad starting a business from scratch. If you want to find success working with your family as you oversee your company, you need to be strategic about how you run things.
Focus on Communication
Tensions can get high when you run a business. When you add in the extra intimacy level that comes with interacting with family members, those tensions can easily boil over.
One of the best ways to keep everyone happy and focused is to keep lines of communication open. You can do this by:
- Establishing both internal and external communication as company standards.
- Regularly asking for input from family members.
- Maintaining two-way communication between different hierarchical levels of leadership.
- Practicing active listening.
The simple act of communicating well can de-escalate confrontations and even prevent them from happening in the first place.
Don’t Be Afraid of Change
Family businesses often struggle with change. This is particularly true if there are multiple generations in the organization.
If you want your business to stay healthy, though, you need to change. Technology, customer expectations, and many other factors are always evolving.
You can avoid the issue of falling behind by encouraging a growth mindset with all of your family members. This willingness to learn and evolve can help you adapt to change when appropriate while also preserving family traditions within your company.
Set Personal and Professional Boundaries
The need for personal and professional boundaries is a serious issue in the 21st century. A survey from Deloitte found that 77% of respondents have experienced workplace burnout.
This largely comes from an inability to disconnect work and personal life. When you work with your family, this issue is amplified.
Make sure to take steps to keep your personal and professional lives separate. Along with setting personal boundaries, create parameters with your coworking family members, such as:
- No shop talk when you’re at family gatherings.
- No phone calls or communications about work when you’re not on office hours.
- Refuse to let personal issues, problems, and circumstances influence work decisions.
Keeping personal life at home and professional life at work are critical elements of maintaining your sanity when running a family business.
Hire Outside of the Family
Workplace diversity isn’t just about diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives. When you’re running a family business, it’s also about avoiding nepotism.
When you allow your personal preferences, especially as they relate to biological connections, to dictate which candidates you choose, it doesn’t just look bad. It can hurt your business by holding you back from employing the best talent.
Keep an open mind when you hire. Always consider the actual need you’re trying to fill and then look for the best candidates for the job, whether they come from within the family or not.
Ensure You’re Capable of Performing Your Daily Duties as an Owner
Running a family business involves a lot of responsibilities. You need to consider daily operations, future forecasting, financial elements, personal work responsibilities, interpersonal confrontations, and so much more.
If you’re going to run your family’s business, make sure you’re fit to address all of these tasks. Ask yourself if you’re capable and confident about each one.
If you aren’t, you may need to delegate some things — or possibly even pass the business on to someone else. Remember, both your extended family and your staff are depending on the success of the business, no matter who’s at the helm.
Make Employment an Option (Not a Mandate) for Family Members
Having a family business is great. It allows many of your capable relatives to invest themselves in an organization that directly benefits their extended family.
Even so, often the expectation to join a family company can be intense. Resist the urge to pressure family members into joining the business. Instead, gauge interest, connect it with genuine needs, and make sure every relative is happily representing your brand — to both the rest of your staff and your customers.
Stay Current With Industry Trends
All industries evolve with time, and businesses must make an effort to stay abreast of that change. In a family business, it’s particularly important to avoid sticking with the formula for past success if it’s going to hurt your future endeavors.
You can do this by keeping up with current industry trends. There are many tools to help you, including:
- Signing up for industry publications;
- Following pertinent news outlets;
- Using emails to request customer feedback;
- Applying social listening online.
Make sure to do market research regularly to inform your business’s next moves.
Continue Your Education as a Business Owner
Running a family business doesn’t technically require a degree. Nevertheless, higher education remains a critical element in helping you enhance your company.
Having a Master of Business Administration degree can grow your network, hone your leadership, and equip you with the knowledge and vocabulary to handle most business situations.
There are many degrees that can be beneficial when it comes to sharpening your business leadership skills, including:
- A general MBA: An MBA will give you the basic skills required to run a business successfully. It requires developing skills in several key areas, from critical thinking to finance.
- An entrepreneurship degree: A business degree is helpful, but an entrepreneurship degree takes that small business acumen to the next level by helping you further develop many of the basic business skills owners need to have.
- A business analytics degree: By pursuing a business analytics degree, you’ll learn how to use spreadsheets and software to capture, organize, and interpret data to benefit your company.
- A digital marketing degree: The ability to market a company online is applicable and critical for every business. By getting a digital marketing degree, you’ll gain valuable insight into the stages of promoting a business from planning to execution.
- An HR management degree: HR is an overlooked but essential part of a family business. If you want both your related and non-related employees to feel cared for, pursuing a human resources management MBA can give you the information, best practices, and confidence you need to create a solid HR infrastructure for your company.
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