Running a family business can be both a blessing and double-edged sword, depending on your approach and how you choose to manage the team. More often than not your loved ones will want to play a part, in the beginning rather enthusiastically, however, roles and responsibilities eventually blur.
The source of many a family feud, wounded ego, and financial strife, I wanted to share my top tips for running a successful family business, as well as a few key watch outs when tension starts to rise.
1. Learn to over-communicate
When entering into business with family, it’s never safe to assume that just because you are family, you can read each other’s minds. It’s better to over-communicate and know exactly where you stand, rather than keep matters to yourself and assume the message is clear.
2. Treat staff the same
This is absolutely crucial to running a harmonious workplace, and ensuring work culture remains positive, for both staff and customers. Irrespective of whether they are family or not, all staff should be treated equally and with the same benefits ie. fair hours and rostering, holidays etc.
3. Organise your family life
The only way the family business will work is if you have an organised family life. I don’t mean the perfect family (let’s be real), but more knowing who needs to be where and when, school drop-offs, sport, dinner prep, and really allocating your time effectively to keep every plate spinning. If you can minimise the stress and chaos at home, it promotes a better work-life balance knowing the family is under control.
4. Play to your strengths
Within The White Place, there is myself, my husband, my mother, sister, and sister in law, sometimes even my dad. It only works when we play to each other’s strengths and stick to our designated roles. We aren’t all good at every aspect of our business, and I think that is what makes the business so special, however acknowledging it is the important part.
5. Work hard, but plan a holiday
Inevitably, in a family and small business, we tend to be working 24/7 because it is quite difficult to switch off entirely. Weekends seldom exist, but we all really make sure that we organise a holiday (sometimes together, normally separately), so there is something in the calendar to really look forward to. Booking in that time to relax and recharge is so crucial, you can come back with a renewed love for what you do and really get the business firing again.
6. Arguing is healthy
There’s no denying we argue, but it’s ok. I would say something strikes a chord between us all once every 6-12 months, so we have it out then quickly move on. Entering into business with family, this is to be expected, though I encourage that you never hold a grudge and learn to really laugh about it a little down the track. I know this element of the business journey was the hardest for my husband, but it is how my family was raised.
7. An equal husband and wife relationship
Perhaps this is specific to The White Place, maybe you and your husband run separate businesses, however, I want to stress how important it is to maintain an equal and open-minded relationship. Johnny, my husband, has been amazing at recognising that neither of us are breadwinners and both our contributions are valid in business and in family life.
8. The weekend isn’t always a weekend
Again, this will differ for every business, but for us specifically, Saturday’s and Sunday’s are our busiest trading days. Our weeks are often flipped on their head, we work all weekend and take time out during the week for more family time and attending personal commitments.