According to ChamberOfCommerce.org, 99.9 percent of businesses in the United States are “small businesses.” But they define small business as 500 employees or less.
That’s a pretty big number to be “small.”
When I think of small business, I think of “family-owned business”—the kind where a family works together.
And when a family works together, they typically face unique challenges in addition to the normal issues a business owner faces—like some of the family wanting to work in the business and some leaving to follow their own path.
Here are some other examples of unique challenges family businesses face:
Mom and Dad currently do most of the work. They worry the kids won’t have the same work ethic and give the business the constant attention it needs. They fear they may have to place their retirement plan (selling the company) into the hands of people who treat the company as a place to work—merely a job, not their own creation.
Fighting for Fairness
Then there’s the added problem of how to sell to the kids who stayed. You can’t just give the company to them because your company is typically the biggest asset you have to sell. So how do you get them the keys to the front door—fairly priced for everyone involved—and not disinherit the other kids?
Within a family business, there can also be personality conflicts, where arguments occur because there are siblings involved and they’ve argued since childhood. They may not like each other but are forced to stay in the business together because nobody can be fired.
For some families who work together, business becomes the primary topic of conversation. My wife, daughter, and son-in-law all work in our practice. But we have two boys who do not work in the company—and they eventually got tired of listening to us talk about work at Sunday dinner, so we made a rule: no talking about work on the weekends or at the dinner table.
I have found that the best solution to family issues, whether at home or work, is to communicate with each other.
Communicate about problems, successes, bottle necks, and solutions. Communicate when someone has done something that hurts your feelings or said something that was way out of line. The communication doesn’t need to be aggressive or hurtful; instead, it should be conducted in a healthy way, with a “we are better than that” mindset.
One of the ways I cultivate communication in our practice is by always having an open door. I regularly tell my team members, “If you want to talk to me about something, just put it on my calendar, and when it’s time, stand in my doorway. We will talk about whatever you want to discuss.”
When you give your team (and in this case, your family) an opportunity to address challenges in a direct, non-confrontational way, you open doors for resolution and growth.