Would you or should you work with family?

(20 /08 /2015)

Family…for many of us, the word conjures up feelings of love, warmth, support.  They’re the people you turn to when times are tough, when you need a bit of help or just want a good home-cooked meal.  Some of us have taken things further and have combined family life with work as evidenced by the high number of family owned and run businesses we see every day.

Small cafes are definitely big “consumers” of family employees.  My local café is owned and managed by an older couple who then employee several of their own children and for the most part, it all seems to run very well.  I’ve certainly never heard a harsh word said but it’s not hard to miss the odd “black” look or see the stress written on faces when perhaps things aren’t going quite right.

Firstly though, there are definitely some pros with working with family.  You know them – their nuances, what a look or a comment actually means, what ticks them off and how to get the best out of them.  Family are usually always supportive – if things go wrong, family are often the first people to step up and help out and not expect something in return.  Family members generally have the same goal of wanting the business to work so everyone pitches in and works hard.  And often, working with family can be fun!

There are of course, a few cons too.  In my mind, the key issue is when things go pear-shaped.  Your colleagues are not just people you can ignore or forget about when you go home; they’re related to you, your kids, your history and there’s a much stronger, more important relationship at stake.  You have to be able to talk through the issues and find a way to resolve them that keeps everyone happy…otherwise Christmas dinner won’t be such a fun affair.  You need to make sure that everyone is happy with how the business is being run and are satisfied with their “cut” of the profits or you run the risk of a serious falling out which can destroy families.

So if you want to create a family business what are the key things to know?  Firstly, develop agreements up front – make sure you know what you want to achieve, determine what is appropriate in terms of finances or payments and how to split things up if the business winds up or someone “wants out”.  Review these agreements on a regular basis, involve all relevant family members in the discussion to ensure the business is still working for everyone and modify things as necessary.  Make sure you talk regularly about the day-to-day running of the business and deal with issues or arguments then and there…don’t let things fester and build up to boiling point.  And keep it fun…when work stops being enjoyable, it’s time for change.

Are you convinced?  Is working with family an attractive proposition?  I would really love to hear from those who have done it – what worked, what didn’t, what you’d change or the advice you’d give to someone considering it.  I certainly like the idea though…and I love that warm, gooey feeling you get when you walk into that family café and are served a little bit of love on a plate.

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