Family Ties


“Someone who’s never been exposed to it
doesn’t really understand that the family business
is the moving force in the family”.
Bernard Kliska

“As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live. “
Pope John Paul II

“A man should never neglect his family for business. “
Walt Disney

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You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family” or so the saying goes.  That’s especially true in family-owned businesses.  Sometimes the work environment is influenced by the family’s dynamics which in turn can have an impact on employees as the bonds and strains are often there for all to see.

All relationships take time and effort.  At home and at work time needs to be spent building and maintaining strong relationships.  For families who work together, the boundaries for relationships at work and home can be blurred.  While blood is thicker than water, if it’s bad blood that can mean difficulties in the smooth operation of the organization.  

Mom Always Liked You Best   

Working with family can be difficult because often relationships don’t change in the minds of family members between the time they leave home and the time they pull into the parking lot at work.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing but if there is dysfunction in the family it can infect the workplace.

Brothers and sisters who work together can bring their sibling rivalries with them.  If mom and/or dad are involved in the workplace and, especially if they founded the company, approval on the job can be added to that which was sought at home.   The Boss’ Kid sometimes expects a responsible position based on their last name as opposed to their capabilities, a solid work ethic and paying their dues like everyone else.    None of the above is beneficial to a work environment.

Id, Ego, I Dunno…

Now I’m not trying to go all Freudian on those of you in family run businesses but, it is important to consider the quality of the relationships you have with the family members you work with and the impact it may be having on your business.  Parents need to know when to let go, sons and daughters need to earn employees’ respect rather than rely on the family name and an honest assessment of who is best suited to lead the business is necessary to assure the organization’s ongoing health and assure strategic succession planning.  Even more challenging can be the scenario where a non-family member gains a stake in the game or becomes president or CEO. 

There are numerous successful, successfully run family businesses throughout the U.S.  
When family is at the top, their work relationships need to be examined to make sure they are unencumbered by issues that could prevent the organization from operating efficiently and optimally.    Family members need to be willing to listen to others’ ideas and viewpoints and consider the best options for the organization regardless of whose name is above the door.   Their performance expectations and accountability need to be the same as for any other member of the organization.

Not Everybody’s Talking

Every organization must deal with relational and communication breakdowns.  When doing so it is important to focus on issues and behaviors and not make it personal.  Often a company’s energy is sapped by the reluctance and/or inability to address relational conflict or confront each other to clear the air and concentrate on the business of running the business.  Every day is a run uphill with extra baggage.  In family-owned businesses, added to the need to keep communication open and conflict to a minimum is an extra layer of relationships that needs to be considered. 

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother

If two heads are better than one then even more may be even better but if they’re engaged in head butting then that just makes for headaches.  Whether your business is run by family, employee owned or listed on NASDAQ, take the time to reopen lines of communication and address rocky relationships that may be hindering your company’s success.  That way the company picnic is less likely to turn into a food fight.

Here to serve,

John Duba

Next month: Do The Right Thing

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