15 Apr 2019

Dealing with the Challenges of a Family Business

Running any business is hard, but when you’re running a family business, you face a unique set of challenges – it’s hard to leave work at work, it’s hard to manage the emotional entanglement of family and there’s more at stake than money when something goes awry. So how do you manage and grow your family business without fraying the relationship you’ve built with your loved ones? It comes down to boundaries and business roles.

Running a business on your own can be lonely – it’s hard to find someone who can truly sympathize with the challenges you’re facing and, if your spouse or significant other isn’t involved in the day-to-day operations, it can be difficult for he or she to understand the frustrations you’re having. Unless you’re working with a mentor (including a peer mentor), a business group or a coach, you don’t really have anyone to bounce ideas off of.

When you’re in a family business, the opposite is true. Whether one person is running the daily operations or everyone is involved in some way, everyone in your family knows the ins and outs of the business and has a stake in the success. When you talk business, it’s not to a third party who can help you stay grounded, it’s to an interested party who might be facing the same challenges.

The most important thing in a family business is boundaries – both at home and at work. First of all, do your best to leave work at work. If you’re discussing the business at the dinner table and at every family gathering, you’re not giving yourself time to recharge and you’re not finding balance. That can easily lead to burn out. Equally important… try your best to leave home at home. You can’t help but talk about home life, but oversharing with non-family employees can be trouble.

The second thing comes down to business roles. These are also important because, especially in multi-generational businesses, it’s easy to be pigeonholed into the role of “Mrs. Smith’s Daughter” when, in fact, you might be running the company. Although you may happily be Mrs. Smith’s Daughter, it’s important, especially for your employees, for everyone understand the business roles and dynamics to keep things running smoothly.

Defined business roles can also keep family members from stepping on each other’s toes in the daily operation of your business. It’s nature for family members to want to help each other, but if your sister is running human resources, you don’t need to be updating the employee handbook. You can talk to her about it, but the information to employees needs to come from her.

Family businesses are a huge part of today’s economy and can be incredibly rewarding, but setting boundaries and business roles is vital. If you need help with that, find your local growth coach at 

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