20 Tips to Winning in Family Business

20 Tips to Winning in Family Business

20 Tips to Winning in Family Business

1. Family is for Life. When the family business started you had a great vision for working and succeeding together. Remember nothing is more important than your family. If your ego and behaviour antagonizes a family relationship, step back and pause for a moment. It's not worth it, as things said or actions taken in the heat of the moment, can sometimes never be undone.
2. Create your Organisational Chart with Titles not Names. This technique is effective in taking the ego out of roles fulfilled by family. Drafting your organisational chart with job titles (rather than your names) will help select the best person for each role. Think in the best interests of the business rather than self-interest.
3. Document Position Descriptions. With the organisational chart completed, the difficult task of "who does what" need not be so delicate. Using the job title as a guide, you now draft the responsibilities and tasks. This technique removes tasks that overlap when family members allocate responsibilities without structure.
4. Appoint Individuals to Titles & Position Descriptions. Now you have job titles and position descriptions you can workshop the appointment of individuals to fill these roles. Remember to not limit this analysis to family. Consider non-family employees for all roles on an egalitarian basis. Recruit new staff externally if you don't have the right internal fit.
5. Time Out. Allow you and your family to call for "Time Out" when things get a bit hot. Acknowledge that you both have a different view and agree on a time to meet again to discuss.
6. Play the Issue not the Person. A Golden Rule is to always "play the issue not the person". Don't include personal attacks or family niggle in your business discussions. Agree that anyone can "call this" if they see a family member attacked.
7. Dealing with Nepotism. Nepotism is unfair favoritism shown to family. Regardless of what you think, there are elements of nepotism in every family business. Don't live in denial. Avoid nepotism. Promote and empower individuals based on merit and performance.
8. Walk the Walk. You will have heard the saying "Do as I say not as I do". Many family businesses have one set of rules for family and another for everyone else. Try and avoid this pitfall and be consistent in how you treat all individuals within the business. The morale, culture and ultimate business success depend on this.
9. When to Talk Shop. Discuss with the family where and when everyone believes it's appropriate to "talk shop". Create some agreed "shop talk free zones".
10. Be Consistent. Linked to "Walk the Walk" is being consistent. Family businesses are notorious places for making policy on the run. Staff feel frustrated by owner inconsistency in behaviour and decision making. This leads to staff attrition. Attracting new talent is challenging when the market considers you "on the nose".
11. Create Forums for Discussion. Rather than launching into spontaneous animated discussion, it's useful to create regular scheduled meetings to discuss operational and management issues as a family. This allows family members to prepare in advance and manage expectations. Agendas and time limits assist here.
12. The Devil in Email. Avoid communicating through email. It doesn't allow tone or sentiment to come through. If you have an issue, talk in person. Banging out an email in frustration or anger is a potential land mine.
13. Internal Facilitators. Try and empower trusted internal facilitators within the business to keep the family honest in running the business on a commercial arms-length basis. Call each other by name as other employees do. Respect and accept feedback when these trusted staff members speak up.
14. External Facilitators. Seek and appoint expert external advisors to support the internal management team. All successful business owners have an inner circle of experts. Don't miss out on benefiting from this success secret by letting pride and ego stand in the way. Take advice, share the load and increase the rewards for the family.
15. Don't air your Dirty Laundry at Work. This is easy. Just don't do it. Ever.
16. Lead through Behaviour. Within the family group, choose to be a leader in living these principals daily. Inspire others to follow suit and set the bar high. Be happy with more capacity spending less time on negative thoughts, politics and innuendo.
17. Resist Empire Building. It can be tempting to family members, but attempts to build empires leads to families imploding. Leave your ego in the bottom draw and share the spoils with the family. It's much more fun and satisfying to achieve goals with others - particularly your family.  
18. Smell The Roses Together. Remember when you went into business to create success for you and your family? Don't forget to smell the roses along the way. Too many people say "when we get there we'll celebrate". I'm not sure "where" actually is or "when" you get there. So if you have a win, stop and smell those roses together.

19. Create Wealth Together. One of the primary aims in running a business is to make a profit. So what better way to enjoy it than creating wealth together with your family.

20. Blood is thicker than Water. Loyalty in business is critical. The family bond and ability to unite under pressure is a huge competitive advantage. Never take your family for granted. Remember that family will outlast, outwit and outplay your most ardent competitors. 

Darren Bourke

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Cheers, Darren K Bourke