Running a Family Business? 3 Tips to Make It Work…
Let me assure you it is possible to survive a family business. Have you ever worked for a family owned business? I have. Managing a family business is no small feat however and if you don’t do it right, you can end up with broken relationships.
Broken Family and Lost Business
I experienced it at an Italian restaurant in New York City. The owners were equal partners. Jerry was the father-in-law and was born in Italy. Tony was the son-in-law and was born in the States. Jerry was the head chef; Tony was the second chef. There were only a handful of other employees besides Jerry’s wife, Fran and Tony’s wife, Maria.
Business was mainly from a lunch crowd and was full most days. They didn’t serve many dinners and would close early. Tony was also a partner in a pizzeria in Manhattan, so when the lunch rush was taken care of, he would leave and work evenings in the pizzeria. Even though this was a well-known fact from the beginning of the partnership, Jerry still resented that Tony left earlier than he did.
As tensions grew, full-on screaming matches would ensue in the kitchen. Unfortunately, as their animosity escalated, the lunch crowds dwindled. Patrons could sense the bad energy emanating from the kitchen. Eventually, Jerry and Tony were forced to sell the restaurant and go their separate ways.
Could the restaurant and their relationship be saved? It is hard to say. But one thing that could have helped was if they would have communicated their feelings to one another.
Friendly Enemies Kept Disney Afloat
Not all family businesses end up like Jerry and Tony’s. For example, Walt Disney and his brother Roy were able to work together. Walt was terrible at running a business. Roy was excellent at it. Each brother understood their role within the organization – Roy was the businessman; Walt was the creative. They also never infringed on the other’s expertise. They did argue, but they never usurped each other’s roles.
Running a Family Business is Tricky
When you own and operate a business, there are many things to keep track of on a daily basis. It can be very emotional. If you add family to that mix, you add more stress and increase your chances of controversy arising.
Why? I think it boils down to lack of respect. Not in the way you may be thinking, though.
Consider this, if you go to work with your brother, you will not necessarily see him as your manager or CEO. More than likely, you’ll still see your brother. Sometimes, family members also say things to each other that they would never say to a regular employee.
3 Tips to Running a Family Business
There has to be a way to make this work, don’t you think? How can you work with family and not give each other ulcers?
Let’s talk about 3 tips to help you navigate the murky waters of running a family business.
Tip #1 – Make sure everyone knows their role and keep those roles defined
Each family member should know what their role and responsibilities are for the business. That is what made the Disney brothers successful. If no one understands their role, if it is not defined, you run the risk of having a lack of accountability in areas of your business and a potential breakdown in efficiency.
Tip #2 – Have contracts and sign them
Just because you are running a family business doesn’t mean an agreement is not necessary. In reality, it is probably more important.
Use an attorney to draft up and map out each person’s role as if you were going into business with a stranger. This adds a level of professionalism and hones in on the business aspects of working together.
Tip #3 – Communicate with structure
Poor communication can be the downfall of your business. You may talk to little or too much. Your discussion should be structured and scheduled regularly. Use these times to air out everything you need to and keep moving forward.
Emotions drive all of us as humans. Controlled emotions are powerful. Uncontrolled emotions will destroy everything.
Keep your emotions under control and communicate your feelings. The positive energy this brings will emanate through your business, and you will not only survive running a family business – you'll be on track to success.
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