5 Tips for Working for the Family Business

family business

When you work for the family business, being mindful about your professional persona can help preserve your familial relationships.

Family businesses can be a source of pride and fulfillment. But, often, they are rife with unprecedented turmoil. Working for a family business presents unique challenges that require special tactics to keep things professional (and to keep the peace).

For example, a performance review from your mom, dad, or sibling can be emotion-driven rather than fact-based. According to Harvard Business Review, fall outs with family over work can cause a tremendous amount of anger, sadness, and shame. So what is a family to do?

Here are five essential tips to working well with relatives:

1) Start your career elsewhere.

Or at least spend a few years with another company. If have only worked for your family’s organization, you lack a well-rounded perspective about the business. You are missing out on valuable training, alternate strategies and viewpoints, and unique experiences that would make you an asset to the family business. And that’s no slight to your company: Having several relatable job experiences creates better judgement skills. Also important, working in the “outside world” helps sow seeds of confidence, which are difficult to cultivate when working with a parent.

2) Set boundaries between family talk and work talk.

Separating work from home is key to having a healthy professional relationship and still being able to speak to your family at that weekend BBQ. Family members must learn to talk to one another as business partners. Establish rules for professional business interactions, like using a professional tone when speaking. Actively listen to hear the other, not to form your response.  Don’t interrupt others who are speaking. Ask for clarification if you don’t understand the other person’s point of view. Let everyone participate equally.

3) Define your role and what you bring to the company.

Limit competitiveness and bad feelings by outlining clear job descriptions. Stay within the boundaries of your role to avoid stepping on others’ toes. Then bring all you have to that role. Picking up the slack for a fellow employee is annoying, but having to do it for a family member can cause anger and resentment.

4) Get an outside perspective regarding challenges and strategy.

Hire an outside strategic advisor to evaluate your business, how it fundamentally is working (or not working), and how the roles of the family members are either supporting success or creating greater challenges.

5) Set high expectations and stick to them.

No favoritism is allowed. Your parent or sibling should want you to succeed, but not through coddling. Expectations should remain high for all family members, as for every employee. Those that fall short should be subject to the same consequences as non-family.

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