Is your business a family business?
When most people hear that phrase they think in terms of some formal and regular involvement of family members in defined business activities with some payment for such activity.
Yet in the broadest sense, family businesses cover a much broader involvement of family members. The work might include the regular activities of the business or it may be an occasional job or it simply may mean help in planning and development. Taken to its extreme, the involvement may simply mean being there too help cover an emergency.
Also in a family business, payment for such work is not required.
Finally, the “family” connection is not fully defined. It may be blood-relative or an adopted child. It also may be an in-law, someone connected by marriage. Given our wide use of those considered family, there are many others who may be involved in the family business.
As a manager, it’s important to consider this as you operate the business. Your first step should be to determine who is working for your business who considers themselves “family.” Family members often have different ideas of their rights and responsibilities as well as their expected level of compensation. And certainly, they may have ideas about progression “up the ladder” as jobs become available.
Being aware of this can help navigate some of management decisions that will need to be made. Family relations are complex. Business relations are complex. Now mix the two together and you have great opportunities for unhappiness and dissension.
Avoiding, or at least minimizing, these potential negative aspects begins with understanding where everyone is coming from. Open communication is also important as is talking about certain sticky points before they become a problem.
Don’t assume that a one-time conversation, even if everyone seems in agreement, is the end, however. Keep revisiting and checking to see if feelings and desires have changed.
Family businesses can be a great place to work. Your proactive efforts as a manager can make them stay that way long into the future.
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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.