WORKING in the family business can be fraught. When your manager is also your parent, sibling or another relative, how do you keep things professional? Here are six tips for working effectively alongside family members.
1. Work somewhere else first: experience in an outside company should be a requirement before working in the family business, says Rob Lachenauer, the CEO and co-founder of Banyan Family Business Advisors. You will get invaluable training, improve your business judgment and build confidence.
2. Create separate spheres: as soon as you enter the family business, set a boundary between family time and work time. If you think a family member is not respecting these boundaries, “bring it up privately and immediately”, Lachenauer says.
3. Define your role and career path: make sure you have a clear understanding of your job description and that others know what role you fill. Be transparent and proactive about your expectations and goals for the future. It is critical to talk early and openly about rules for advancement and what handing off power might look like.
4. Adopt an office voice: actively listen and use a professional tone with family members — that way you do not make others feel excluded or cause squabbles when boundaries are breached.
5. Seek independent feedback: getting candid input when you are the boss’s son or daughter is difficult. Lachenauer suggests participating in the standard review process and supplementing it with outside evaluations.
6. Have a backup plan: for your sanity and future success, it is critical to maintain outside interests and contacts of your own. You should also think regularly about a Plan B, in the event the family business — or your place in it — hits tough times.