Depending on your relationship with your family, running a business with them can sound like either a dream or a nightmare. However, even the happiest families will run into issues when they are operating a business together, and even those struggling with dysfunction can find a way to steer a company through conflict.
Formal structures and processes are crucial in this type of arrangement. They can be vital in creating a kind of buffer that reduces conflict because there is a set way to go about everything from hiring a new employee to purchasing equipment and more. There might be a family member who is endlessly enthusiastic about new tech and a formal process for reviewing and determining whether that tech would be useful can help prevent impulse buys. It can also help the person feel as though their proposals get a full airing even if the outcome is not in their favor.
The person might propose replacing the company fleet with electric cars. A small committee or purchasing team could then review a guide to learn more about the costs of electric car charger, how to install them and charging networks. They could then weigh the expenses and advantages and disadvantages of such a change before making a decision. By keeping the focus on structure and process instead of individuals in this way, the likelihood of personal conflict is reduced.
Talk About It
The formal structures suggested above should not be used to stifle a disagreement or discourage from raising issues when they need to. In fact, discussing grievances early can help prevent small things from growing into big drama. If a problem keeps coming up or seems unresolvable, an outside mediator can be brought in to help. To keep work problems from overtaking family life, an agreement can be made to have time together that is free of talk about work.
Set Aside Family Roles
Within most families, people fall into roles such as the bossy one, irresponsible one, or the clown. There can also be old patterns and dynamics baked into how people relate to one another. It’s important to make a conscious effort to set aside in the workplace. People should be particularly aware of not treating a sibling, parent, or a child in a way they wouldn’t dream of treating a coworker.
Play to One Another’s Strengths
An advantage of being a family is that you have a good sense of what you are all good at. If you don’t push anyone into a role that they feel no longer fits them, try to put people in positions where they will be able to thrive based on their existing strengths.
One trap it can be easy to fall into in a family business is failing to document knowledge that the older generation has. It’s important to write this down as well as have a succession plan in place for when the older generation retires, with both family members and key employees chosen and prepared well in advance to take over.