Family businesses are more common than you think. Many times they don’t even start like this, but little by little a cousin who has lost his job is hired to “help”, call him “brother”, because he is the one we trust the most, or the work is passed on. from father to sons. There is a lot of “mixing” between family and business that, if not done in a balanced way, can be detrimental to both.
I worked for a few years in a family business and at The Alternative Board Portugal (TAB) I met other companies of the same type and the problems are always common, to a greater or lesser degree: difficulties in communication, in separating what is work and what is Confused or missing personal life and hierarchies often turns what could be a company’s greatest strength (employee cohesion) into one of its greatest weaknesses.
At TAB there are always key points that we work on in family businesses, and that are very beneficial not only for the companies, but also for the partners:
Create a hierarchy
All companies have hierarchies and family members should not be an exception. When things get tough, in most cases, it’s that hierarchy that doesn’t always match up with the family hierarchy. If, for example, a father is subordinate to his son, he must act accordingly and not discredit him in front of other employees. It is important that this hierarchy is established, understood, accepted and respected by all, to avoid misunderstandings in the future.
Respect everyone’s work
It is said that “each monkey is on its branch” and the ideal of the importance of establishing a hierarchy is that each member has clear functions and that these functions are respected. It’s okay to “help out” if you need to, but when it becomes the norm and everyone else’s job is done, it can be dangerous. It is said that “a dog without an owner dies of hunger, and a dog with two owners too”, because it is not the job of either, both expect the other to do it. Clarify the duties and responsibilities of all employees, whether family or not.
Separate the two things
Sometimes we talk across the table, brainstorm in the car, or have a casual conversation in the middle of the day that we think is settled. But by not being in the right environment and time, it is very likely that she will not stay and that the other person will forget her and leave her. Get in the habit of discussing work issues at opportune moments, through a meeting, and preferably leave everything in writing to avoid misunderstandings in the future.
Do not exclude non-family employees
It is inevitable that many decisions will be made outside of the work environment, because we do not have an “off switch”, but it is important to make sure that the rest of the team, because they are not part of the family, do not. they feel left out or believe they are not part of the family. It’s also important to make sure everyone understands decisions made regarding hiring, promotions, or job assignments, so they don’t get discouraged.
Hiring an external consultant
Let’s be honest, there are conflicts that we simply cannot overcome, putting an end to “we agree to disagree” and if this solution works in some cases, when it comes to running a business it is not recommended. Mediating in family conflicts is complicated, because emotions always end up mixing, and we can unintentionally side with those closest to us. The external appearance is always more objective and can help solve problems that delay (or even prevent) the development of the company.
Fair pay for all employees
As contradictory as they are, paying too much or too little for a family member are common “evils.” The temptation to pay a relative less “just to balance the company’s finances” is great, and many times the person himself does not care, but it is not a situation that we should prolong, since it can demotivate him. On the other hand, overpaying can have a negative impact on other employees, making them feel neglected or even wronged. We should always try to offer salaries commensurate with the work of each one.
Have a succession plan
The natural path of a family business is to pass from father to son over the years, but many companies do not do it gradually. Many entrepreneurs tend to isolate themselves in their jobs and, when they finally retire, surprisingly pass the portfolio on to the next generation. Even if you have always worked for the company, holding leadership positions and even running operations for brief periods such as vacations or sick leave, a CEO is not hired overnight, and you should always have an adjustment period in place. that they both have the same jobs and help each other.