As the famous saying goes, never work with animals, children or family members… Ok, we added the last one in there, but we’ve all seen or heard stories of family businesses going south due to unresolvable differences over how the company should be run. According to a study by the Family Business Alliance in the US, less than a third (30%) of family-owned businesses survive into the second generation.
But, when leaders get the dynamic right, family businesses can last for generations. In PwC’s most recent Family Business Survey, almost three-quarters (74%) of the respondents said they believed they have a stronger culture and values than non-family firms.
So, what is key to keeping those close family ties intact in a potentially stressful business setting? Smallbusiness.co.uk suggests it is something of a fine art. Owen Gough, author of the piece, goes on to offer five rules when working with family members:
1. Set boundaries
In a family business, you need to avoid getting too personal when it comes to business matters. Setting boundaries is essential to ensuring related colleagues behave with one another and don’t overstep the mark.
2. Divide roles and responsibilities
Nobody likes to have their toes stepped on – it’s often even less palatable when it’s a family member who’s made their way into your domain. Clearly defining roles and responsibilities for everyone will go some way to stopping people getting involved in issues that don’t concern them, making for more harmonious interaction.
3. Treat family members as you would anyone else
Problems really start to emerge when you treat family members differently, be it favourably or more harshly. Promoting a family member up to a position of power, when they’re not ready for it, is just as damaging as denying them opportunities to progress when they’ve earned it.
4. Keep work and family separate
When engaging with family members outside of work, try to keep the conversation away from business. It’s just not healthy. Plus, it opens the door for arguments, when issues are “done to death”.
5. Get outside advice
It’s easy to lose perspective when operating in the bubble of a family business. It’s crucial that you have the ability to step back, away from the views and opinions of family members, and look at things from a more objective point of view.
It can be difficult to step back far enough to see the business for what it truly is – often it requires a completely dispassionate set of eyes to really understand what needs to be done to take the company forward.
Agnentis Partners have the ability to see things through your eyes and through a more detached lens, to gauge an accurate and complete picture of your family business. Get in touch to experience the benefits of outside advice.