Five top tips for working in a family business effectively

masterclass, family businesses

With recent studies showing that over 70 per cent of Australian small businesses are family businesses, the balancing act of getting family and business right is a very real art. From work hours, to roles, to problems that arise, many families feel like they’re crossing a minefield when doing business together. It’s all too easy to focus on the horror stories of what goes wrong when families work together, but as someone who’s working in a three-generation family business, I wanted to share some tips that have worked for us at Rio Vista Olive Oil.

1. Teamwork

Play the ball, not the man. This one always covers both worlds of a family business. Just as teamwork is needed on the family front for a family to work, it needs to be forefront in the business too. No one wants to feel like they’re going at it alone. Remember it’s “we”, not “me”. When something does go wrong, there’s nothing worse than everyone attacking each other rather than the problem. Yes, mistakes are a reality, but most be can overcome when everyone remains united and works together instead of going in different directions.

2. Communication

We all know this in theory, but sometimes the application can be tricky. For any small business to be successful, the members need to be able to communicate openly and freely. When everyone is on the same page, things can thrive. We’ve found that having a weekly meeting with everyone involved is great place to start. This allows everyone to add to the meeting’s agenda beforehand and make sure everyone has the opportunity to comment and discuss. When family and staff feel heard and needed, productivity and morale always lift. Have an issue with something? Don’t fester on it, simply put it on the meeting agenda so you can speak calmly and openly about what’s going on so that things can be addressed.

3. Goals

What are your small businesses goals? Is everyone aware of these? When everyone is on the same page as to direction and targets, it makes the whole process run smoothly. When everyone sees goals being met, it boosts confidence and the feeling of accomplishment across the whole family.

4. Roles and respect

These two R’s are vital in any business but are taken to the next level of necessity when it comes to a family business. They also go hand in hand. Clearly defined roles within a business are another key to success. No one likes to double up on a job or feel like someone is taking over from them. Work out the respective roles in your family business and allow each other the space to succeed in them. Respect comes in here because when you respect your family members and the business is a safe space, everyone can thrive. Don’t forget to respect your own abilities and what you can bring to the business table, too.

5. Boundaries

Here is another big one. Boundaries imply balance and space within a family business. No one wants to feel consumed by their family business. Make sure all members have time away, so that it doesn’t become a 24 hour on call project for everyone. Find the balance. Can meal times become a no-go business zone? Can you keep a separate phone for business calls so that after hours you’re not tempted to continue working? Think about what works for you and but those boundaries in place now.