Whether you have been in business for years or are just starting out, whether you are a product or service business or whether you are home-based or on Main Street, you all have one thing in common: Your family and small business are closely linked.
Any action you take in one easily can affect the other.
One thing that you probably do, true to some degree in most family businesses, is to intermingle time and money.
And even if intermingling does not occur, the family becomes an integral part of the business, whether by intent or not, and can influence business success. Not only is the business influenced, but family functioning and family success typically also are influenced when a business owner resides in the household.
Often the only link between the family and business is the cash transfers between them. In many cases, those cash transfers are from business to family at first, with the later goal of transferring money from business to family as the business grow and prospers.
The perception that what happens in one area does not affect the other comes from the common misunderstanding that the business and family are separate.
Given the interconnectedness of the family and the business, business owners and family managers often ask what can be done. Understanding the influence each system can have on the other will have a major impact on making this a positive instead of a negative.
The first step is to sit down with all family members and discuss why and how the business will fit into the existing family routines and what adjustments they might need to make.
Identifying how the business may impact the family finances and family time is important during these early discussions. Acknowledge that changes will be necessary.
As part of the discussion, identify the priorities and build a plan that allows family priorities to remain in place to the extent possible. This will mean coordinating schedules so family members face no surprises.
And while the business may seem to be taking while the family always is giving, look for and verbalize where and how the business can and will give for the family.
Acknowledge that the business and family are both partnerships. Ask other family members to help in the business, but also, as the business manager, ask how you can, in return, help with the family duties.
Allowing the family to participate in the business and seeing you take a role in family duties will help all members develop a sense of belonging. This will encourage the support and understanding of all the members. The activities need not be large. Even small tasks can mean a lot when working as a team.
As you, the business manager, do your scheduling, ensure that time is set aside for family. Remember that maintaining a sense of balance is important. Secondly, schedule quiet time that allows you to focus on work, not the daily routines of work but looking ahead.
Small businesses are a key economic force in our economy. Developing them and helping them succeed is key. The family plays a crucial role in that success. Open communication and involvement can foster that role.
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Glenn Muske is an independent expert on rural small business, working as GM Consulting – Your partner in achieving small business success. He provides consulting, and writes articles for county extension agents and newspapers across North Dakota. Previously, he was the Rural and Agribusiness Enterprise Development Specialist at the North Dakota State University Extension Service – Center for Community Vitality.