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December 1, 2017

By Janie Smyser of family-owned K9 Granola Factory

“Family-owned and operated” has a magical ring to it, especially in today’s world of large corporate or investment group takeovers. Customers love the thought of dealing with a family they can trust, and the idea of building a legacy to hand down from one generation to another is part of the fabric of many small business entrepreneurs.

And while there are plenty of family-owned horror stories, there are many more stories of success, with some family businesses spanning generations. So how do you separate the stress of work from the dinner table if you work with family? Here are a few principles that we follow that may help you run your business effectively.

Business Hours
As most family-owned businesses know, the tendency is to work 24/7; however, it is vital to separate the business from your personal family lives. Keep personal matters out of business hours, and definitely keep business matters out of family time. This is especially important if you have employees who are not family or if not every family member works at the business.

Keeping the two worlds separate is vital for a healthy environment at work and home. It also creates structure and allows everyone to focus on what’s important. Avoid letting family dinners turn into a business chat. Talk with your family and agree to let each other know if the conversation accidently slips into a discussion on margins. If you’re working from home this separation may mean physically separating the spaces. Turning a room into a home office that follows strict “business hours” may be a great solution for a healthy work/life balance.

Everyone Pitches In
Independent businesses face many challenges; everyone’s attitude must be objective. The success of the company is critical, and there is no one who has the luxury to say, “That’s not my job.” If one department is under a lot of pressure or behind schedule, the rest of the team needs to be able to step in, offer support and help.

Just as a family unit works together, so does a small business. Everyone needs to be working toward one common goal and be on the same page.

The same can be said if your business is bringing on the next generation. Our family business includes three generations, and there is generational respect from one to the other. While we train the next generation on simple tasks such as order fulfillment, they are teaching us how to implement new social media tactics. Sharing this type of insight promotes respect from one generation to the next and actually strengthens our family’s bond. Additionally, it gives the younger generation the chance to start at the bottom and learn just what makes the business special, while providing support for current family leadership.

Respect Personalities
One of the biggest challenges for many family-owned companies is recognizing that each family member has certain strengths. Importantly, you have to find the right areas where each individual can thrive and help the business grow. While everyone needs to be able to pitch in when needed, the main focus of his or her job needs to utilize his or her best skills.

Equally important is realizing how everyone works best. For example, one person might need a totally quiet workspace, while another needs music while working on a task. One family member might take initiative, while another looks for guidance or direction.

This can be difficult to recognize and may take time until “your aces are in the right places.” But by capitalizing on each family member’s strengths, everyone can shine in his or her particular role in the company. This is crucial to building a strong, lasting business.

Working with family can be fun and rewarding, but it does not come without challenges. Remember that there are working hours and there are family hours and above all, enjoy it! At the end of the day, your family will always be your family, and in business or personal life, they are there for support. Follow these principles to keep your family business in it for the long-term.

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