5 Things to Do When Going into Business with Family

5 Things to Do When Going into Business with Family

Going into business with family members is an experience which presents a very unique set of challenges.  When people team up with family to pursue entrepreneurship, the expectation is that things will fall into place naturally, especially considering how easy it is to get along with family.  Unfortunately, the inherent pressures of business are severe enough to put a strain on any relationship, regardless of kinship.  In fact, business tends to drive a wedge between family members more easily than most people realize, since family members prefer to interact with one another informally.  Many a family business has fallen apart due to constant infighting and incompatible ambitions.  So what’s the secret?  What’s the best way to go into business with family and guarantee that everyone will stick together through thick and thin?  Here are a few tips:

     1. Staff Objectively: Award roles on merit, not blood lines.  As the saying goes, “It's not personal, it’s Business.” Put family members on the payroll only if they're making a real contribution. This rule also goes for suppliers. Establish positions, roles and remuneration in a way that treats everyone the same, including nonfamily members.

     2. Treat Everyone Fairly: Be careful not to show family members preferential treatment. Doing so creates the culture of family versus nonfamily, which is a recipe for conflict. Treat family and nonfamily the same at all times.

     3. Practice Honesty: Secret meetings with family members to discuss key issues over dinner fosters misunderstanding, misinformation and suspicion. Aim for open, honest communication in all matters.  Everybody should be able to trust one another and keep their word.

     4. Set Some Boundaries: if you ever find yourself dealing with gray areas in conflict, simply ask yourself the question, “What would I do if this person wasn’t a family member?” This helps keep the decision-making process professional.

     5. Don’t Be a Taskmaster: Don’t forget to establish a healthy work-life balance that separates personal from professional. Create working rules where shop-talk is off limits, and encourage family members to distinguish between the two.

     If you’re going to do business with family, the first thing you need to accept is that there will be arguments.  Big arguments. Conflicts are a normal part of any business.  The key to overcoming this dilemma is to make sure that the conflicts you experience are generally constructive.  Conflict becomes constructive and healthy when there’s space for everybody to maturely exchange ideas in order to achieve greater goals.  Whether or not your partners are family, all businesses require healthy organizational culture to encourage constructive conflict and deal with problem solving professionally.  Don’t fall into the trap of taking things personally when doing business with family.  Go the extra mile to keep things professional, and set respectful boundaries between work and family matters.