In part one of my blog How Business Couples Survive & Thrive in Business, I talked about a number of aspects of generally how to manage relationships in family-owned businesses and specifically where business partners were most likely spouses as well. In part two of this article, I’m going to provide some tips specifically for certain members of the family as well as a bit on nepotism (favouritism) in family-owned businesses.
Tips for certain members of the family-owned businesses
Husband & Wife
Remember that your partner brings his/her own skills. They may be different from yours but they are still important and valuable. Value their differences and their input and remember always to treat your partner with respect. When you are at work, keep it professional and never ‘fight in front of the kids’ (kids = employees in this case) and be sure to implement separation from business and home life so that you have a balance between the two. Value the other person’s skills, ensure you both communicate well and it’s very clear what each person’s duties and responsibilities are. Don’t forget to have good and regular communication!
You are the parents of the child, but if at work you are partners of the business, then you need to not treat them like a child, especially a naughty child if they have done something wrong. Remember that whilst you might be older and wiser, they also bring something to the mix with their own skills, knowledge and experiences. Chances are they will have something new to teach us (especially around technology or marketing) so be willing to listen and consider their input. What worked yesterday may not work tomorrow. Whilst you may naturally be a mentor in the business, remember you are a mentor, not a parent, so allow the mentee to learn, grow and develop. You may consider the business your legacy, but if you don’t let go and don’t give them room to grow and develop, you won’t be doing them or your business any favours.
They may be your partner, but they are still your parents and as such, whether a co-employee, partner or parent, you should give the respect they have earned. Listen to what they have said and consider it. It might be out of date, or perhaps that knowledge can be taken in concept and amended to work well in current situations. Older partners have lived life and business for a long time; recognise they have something useful to contribute.
Whilst you might call your sibling ‘Bozzo’ at home, in the workplace, that is very inappropriate. You undermine their authority, and yours when you behave in childlike ways. Healthy competition is good and often strengthens a business, but don’t be conniving or devious in order to better your position. Often such poor behaviour will come back and affect you negatively or impact the business. You are adults, behave like one and do what is best for the business; as ultimately this action will reflect well on you and you will get out of the business what you put into it. Focus on doing a great job, advancing the business and being a responsible partner in the business and leaving the sibling rivalry at home.
Nepotism in a Family Run Business
Nepotism, where family members are given favouritism should be carefully considered. It’s one thing to give your nephew the opportunity of a job interview, but another to employ your nephew purely because he’s family, despite not having the skills, qualifications or experience required for the position. Some things I firmly believe are:
- Strongly consider the business ramifications of employing a family member beforehand. If you employ your mum as the bookkeeper and she’s hopeless, will you be able to sack her? If your nephew hopefully requires termination, will his parents speak to you at Christmas dinner? If the person being considered is the best candidate for the job (and happens to be a family member) then sure, employ them, but be super clear with them (and family) that the same rules apply to them as any other employee. Families should not be disadvantaged because they are family, but they certainly don’t get the job because of the surname on their birth certificate. Never employ anyone (especially family) just because it’s easy, without a proper interview and screening process, including reference checking and testing. Always take your time in recruitment, whether it’s family, friends or strangers.
- Have separation, especially in the HR department. If the HR department shortlists based only on skill and experience, then only the most suitable candidates will be put forward. In this vein, family business owners must agree that they will NOT step in and override the system or pressure the HR Department to just give young Johnny or Janey ‘a helping hand’.
- Do not give them any special treatment or have special rules for them. One great example is that I employed my sons at various stages during their adolescence. Firstly, they were paid the same rates for their age as my other staff. Secondly, they had to follow the same rules as the rest of my staff; that is, turn up to work at the designated time, do the work and have their supervisor (not me) sign their timesheet. Yes, I specifically said to their supervisor, that if there is an issue, tell me and I’ll deal with it, but no favouritism. If they were late, don’t sign their timesheet as being on time. I laid down the rules very clearly in front of them and their supervisor; there would be no special treatment. In my mind, I wanted to teach my kids great work ethic, not how to be poor employees as I knew the latter would be doing them no favours.
- Be openly clear to all staff that this is an equal opportunity place of employment. Just because you share DNA should not mean a family member gets promoted above a non-family member. Promotions are earned equality and poor behaviour is responded to equally. In fact, it’s wise to have an anti-nepotism policy in your business.
- Assign work fairly. Family don’t get all the fun or career-advancing opportunities; work is assigned in fairness and to the best or most deserving candidate; not a family or friend.
- Get a coach. I find that often when I’m working with family-owned businesses, I am giving business partners and owners advice around their relationships with the family owners, people, employees and more. I’m very comfortable stepping in and putting a dispute to bed (so to speak). I hear from each party and then give the advice which is best for the business. I give my logic for my advice and my suggestion on how to proceed. Whilst I am empathetic, I remove the emotion out of the decision, and proceed on the basis of which is the most sound and ideal decision or direction for the business – which in turn is often the best decision for the business owners. As I’ve said before, I am no marriage counsellor, but my extensive business coaching and life coaching skills allow me to be almost a ‘business partner counsellor’.
If you’d like any business coaching assistance, especially for a small business, family-owned business or where there are business partners, I’d be very happy to hear from you; call me on 0411 622 666 or Contact page.