Tips for Working with Family

Many small businesses are family businesses. How do those families keep their personal life and professional life separate?

Here are a few ideas if you are needing help in your family business.

1. Playing the parent card. I have heard a parent, who is also the CEO of his company, say that the children that work in the business call him by his first name. The child doesn’t get to play the “dad” card in a meeting. When out of the office the child goes back to calling the parent “dad”.

2. Separate work spaces. The family that works in close proximity to each other doesn’t necessarily work well together. Unless your business location is super small, don’t share an office. You do need walls and privacy even from family members.

3. Hire slow, fire quick. If you have a family member in the business that isn’t a good fit for the business, don’t do them any favors by keeping them around because their family. If you do let them stay for all the wrong reasons, you could end up hurting your family.

Be tactful and let the family member/employee know that things are not working and           they are free to pursue another career choice

4. Maintain your independence. Go out on your own or with other co-workers for lunch. Do activities outside of the office that are with other people and not family. It is so important that you recharge your batteries independently from family members so that you are refreshed and have new things to talk about when you are together.

5. Clarify roles and have a job description. Identifying roles within the organization will help limit confusion and misunderstandings about everyone’s level of power and authority.

Family businesses may not feel the need to write a formal job description for the employees. Give a detailed job description so everyone is clear about what is expected of them on a daily basis.

Here are a few questions for those of you who are in a family business.

  1. What do you do to keep your personal and professional lives separate?
  2. Do you have job descriptions?
  3. Have you ever had to fire a family member? How did you do it and what was the reaction?
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