Communication in any business is imperative, but with a family business it brings new levels of consideration. You need to be sensitive to your family’s feelings while making sure your point gets through. From day one, establish excellent communication, keep things clear and to the point, and try to avoid getting emotional. Set up a structure for reporting issues and make sure everyone is kept informed about what is going on and who is working on it. It is also important to monitor your tone and the way you speak to family members within the company. Remember that you will need to sit across from them at the table later, so any irritation or irritation could be taken personally. By keeping your tone neutral, you will eliminate any feeling of freezing. Problems and situations will always arise; by facing them head-on with support, you will eliminate confrontation and friction.
Whether you run or work in a family business, it is important that you leave the office, the office, and life at home, at home. Boundaries need to be put in place and respected, no one wants to discuss the next family barbecue during the weekly reunion or why Uncle Sam hasn’t booked rugby for the weekend. Keep in mind that you will likely have members from outside your family on your team and they really don’t need to know the depths of your family relationships. The same can be said for the way the family talks to you. In the office, call yourself by name, not mom or dad, and make sure all staff refer to you that way. Not like the boss’s daughter or your dad said x, y or z. Be clear, respectful and professional. This is also imperative for all written communications, especially emails. Treat them as you would a regular business conversation and for anything that could be misinterpreted, have a conversation in person or over the phone rather than risking an email being taken out of context.
One of the biggest benefits of running or working in a family business is knowing that any profit directly supports your own family. There is no middleman, there is no big boss, your own family benefits from their own hard work, and that is priceless. It also drives a deeper level of commitment, the whole family wants the business to be successful, because when they do, they are also directly successful.
The confidence level is always over one hundred percent. But there’s a word of warning here, just because there’s a business in the family doesn’t mean you have to work for it. By working with family members who love the business as much as you do and want to see it succeed, you will instantly have confidence. Try to force someone in the family business who doesn’t want to be there, and friction will occur. It is vital that everyone is working towards the same end goal, supporting that goal and being happy. Of course, mistakes will be made, as with any business, but it will never be a deviation from the confidence that your family all support the end goal of making the business successful.
One of the greatest assets of working in a family business is the ability to work in all fields. One day you might be in production and the next day you might be dealing with sales. There is no defined role, which can be a blessing and a curse, but for the most part it is seen as the ability to learn the craft from the inside out. There is a much more fluid path in the company, without having to stick to a form of structured progression. You can try out new roles, see what works for you and what really excites you. In less favorable terms, you would be a jack of all trades but also a master of everything. It’s important to check in with your team regularly and see what they enjoy, recognize their strengths and help them run with them. The lack of a defined structure can be a challenge, especially if your family member worked for another business before joining you in the family business. So be aware of their skills, wants and needs and help them create a career path that meets their aspirations, while meeting the needs of the business. Stephen Frankel is the Managing Director and Founder of Polypouch UK, the UK’s leading family-run recyclable and compostable pouch manufacturer (www.polypouch.co.uk)
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