Family businesses represent 62 percent of the workforce, so it's undeniable that family business issues affect more than just the family, they affect a major sector of the US economic engine. But advice on managing the unusual set of dynamics affecting family businesses —especially during tough economic conditions—can be hard to find.
A local organization—The Alternative Board www.thealternativeboard.com/ takes on problems in family business regularly using a business "think tank" approach.
As a tool created to assist family businesses, The Alternative Board founder Allen Fishman has written The Wall Street Journal bestseller, "9 Elements of Family Business Success."
These practices include:
1. Don't hire if you can't fire. Create a written policy for hiring, reviewing and terminating family member employees. Responsibilities and standards need to be upheld…even if the expectations are different than a non-family employee.
2. Be open and honest about financials, including compensation. This is the most emotionally charged issue family businesses face. Attempting to keep the peace with equal pay for unequal contributions actually provides fuel for future conflicts. Avoid family tension regarding compensation by sticking to agreed policies.
3. Plan to pass the business on someday. Be proactive with succession planning. Choose a successor and create a succession plan. Then, communicate! Be sure key family members, including the successor, are on board with the plan.
4. Take extra care to prevent the business from following you home. When you work with the person you love, the line between business and personal relationships gets pretty fuzzy. Understand one another's role and vision for the company. Set boundaries and stick to them. And, don't let the office be "everywhere, anytime."
5. Get creative with the needs and aspirations of non-family employees. Take on job security fears and uncomfortable situations head-on.