Family and Business Tips

Focus on Family - Incorporating Loved Ones Into Your Family Business

Posted by Stacey Papp

Families who own businesses big and small often see it as a point of pride to share the business with family members. Whether it be passing the business on to your sons or daughters, running the business side-by-side with your spouse or bringing in extended members of the family to participate and share in your success, incorporating the family can be very rewarding. But it also comes with some risks. So consider all the potential potholes and plan for success when you bring the family on board. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you incorporate your loved ones into your business.

Welcome to the real world
It’s a good idea for family members to work elsewhere first to gain valuable experience and perspective. While it may be fine to fill your kids’ summers with part-time work to make a bit of extra money and fill small gaps in your labor force, you should consider their experience before you bring them on full-time. 

Some time spent working outside the family business will allow them to learn and grow outside of your influence. This will help ensure you’re not just creating a carbon-copy of yourself but someone who benefits from your experience and experiences of their own and others. This way, you’ll know you’re getting someone who can bring new perspectives to the family business as well as following family traditions. 

Don’t stack the deck

The worst thing some business owners do is bring their family in and put them into a management role they aren’t qualified for and have them supervising people with more knowledge and experience than they have. 

This is a good way to create resentment among your staff and set your family member up to fail at the same time. Put your relative into a job appropriate for them and let them earn their way just like any other employee. Your son or daughter might well inherit the business someday, but let them learn it from the ground up, and everyone will be better off in the end.

Is it worth it?
This probably goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: make sure your business is viable and in good shape before handing over the reins. It might be tempting to pass off any problems and slip easily into retirement, but it’s much more rewarding to set the business up to thrive for future generations of the family. 

Look at your operations and processes and assess what the company can be doing better or differently. That way the fresh perspective brought in by the next generation will be providing an octane boost to a business that’s already on the road to better things. 

Who is this for, anyway?
Whatever their age, it’s likely your kids will feel pressure to please you, so be aware of who wants what. Talk with them before making any leaps and make sure that coming into the family business is a mutual decision. Your dream might not be their dream, and that’s OK. The last thing anyone wants is for you to trust them with something as sacred as the business you built only to have it be an unwelcome burden. Be honest with them, and allow them to be honest with you.

A successful business that runs in the family is the dream of many entrepreneurs. If it’s your dream, protect it by approaching the concept with the respect it deserves. You’ll be happier and more successful in the long run, and your family will thank you for it.

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