Balancing family and business in a family business

“You think corporate politics are tough? Go work for your Dad or Mom.” – Gary Vaynerchuk

Vaynerchuk–entrepreneur, author, and internet personality–is no stranger to family business. Having worked for his parents’ wine business growing up, he has learned many lessons about how to successfully, and unsuccessfully, navigate the sometimes muddied waters of working with family. One thing Vaynerchuk’s got right is that is isn’t always easy working for Mom and Dad.

Learning how to balance family and business is a fine art that one can never lose focus of. Differing opinions, important deadlines, and the drama that happened at last Thanksgiving are all working against the success of your family business. It’s important that you don’t let these common events negatively affect the overall goal; a happy family and a successful business.

To help keep your family business moving in the right direction, be sure to practice these staples:

Communication:  Obviously, right? We all know communication is key to every relationship we have whether it be romantic, business, or family. Unfortunately, sometimes it is just a lot easier to be bad at communication — not necessarily on purpose — but just because it comes more naturally. The thing is, when we work purposefully at communication, it may seem strange or even canned, but it works. We are more likely to fill cousin Bob in about the negative interaction we had with a customer the other day, we are more likely to share with our sister that we really aren’t as good at handling the heavier production days as she is, and we are more likely to ask for help.

These statements may seem small, or like the types of conversations we really don’t want to have, but these types of conversations allow us to address small problems before they turn into big problems. Having these types of conversations also allows us to become the most efficient business, and family, we can be…because we aren’t avoiding the tough stuff.

Clarity: When your grandparents started your family business, everyone probably helped out in any role they could just to keep things afloat.  Your sister Suzy stepped away from the cash register for a moment and there’s a customer? No worries because brother Johnny, who is stocking the freezer, can do that for you, too.  He’ll be right with you.

But now that G3 is running the business, it’s grown immensely — more than Grandma and Grandpa could ever imagine — and there is more than just family members working the store.  Roles and responsibilities can become confusing and be a source of conflict. It is important to have clarity surrounding roles and job descriptions.

Do your staff members overlap in their assigned (or unassigned) duties? Do you have written job descriptions and responsibilities assigned for each role so that everyone knows what is expected of them, and what clearly is not?  If not, you may have survived so far with relatively little conflict, but you will be sure to run into problems as your business continues to grow.

Creating job titles and descriptions for each role helps your staff members, including those who are in the family, know exactly where they have authority in the business and where they should stand down to someone else’s expertise, simply because it is better for the business.

Having job titles and descriptions outlined for each role increases efficiency and respect while decreasing conflict. Overall, it makes your employees feel more successful at work to know what is expected of them and to know whether or not they are meeting those expectations.

So, if you don’t have roles and responsibilities already documented within your company, do yourself a favor and do it now. The time you take doing this now will be recouped in the time you would have lost dealing with conflict because of the ambiguity.

A written plan: What’s your plan for business growth? Is it just a wish and a dream? Or do you have something written down that you look at regularly and evaluate yourself, and your staff, on how you are doing

Having a written strategic plan helps you, as business owner, get serious about your goals and growth. Don’t lose time by hoping to grow your business by $1 million in revenue this year and then realize, two years from now, that you didn’t do it. Take charge of your goals with a plan and work toward it.

Additionally, having a written strategic plan gets everyone in the business on the same page. Without it, your employees will not understand your business goals and how they can contribute to the success of the business’ growth. By breaking down goals into smaller objectives that your team can actually see, your team will understand the role they play in the bigger picture.

So start today: Write down your goals and your plan to get there. Communicate it. Have meetings about it. Evaluate your progress. Brainstorm ways to get better. Watch your employees become engaged in the progress. Watch your business culture thrive. And watch your business grow.

Cheyenne Bennett is Leadership & Talent Coach at Compass Point Family Business Strategies. She can be reached at 610‐336‐0514, or cbennett@compasspt.com.

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