Mixing family with business? Here’s how to make it work

Published · 3 min read

It’s so tempting. You launch your business, it starts to grow and you need help. Who better than family? Not only are you giving work and a paycheck to your loved ones, but you’re also assured that you are working with people you can really trust.

But…should you work with family members? The answer may not be so simple—and many business owners are split on the issue. Mixing business with family can be tricky to navigate as a business owner, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid loved ones in the professional environment at all costs. In fact, these multifaceted relationships can give you a leg up against your competition.

If you set some clear expectations right from the get-go and follow these few tips, you might find yourself swimming in success—with the people you love swimming right along with you!

Put it in writing

Just because someone is related to you does not mean you should forgo legal contracts. In fact, doing so can save your relationship in the event of any problems. These documents should be in place from day one, but it’s never too late to put things in writing. You can retroactively get the paperwork done, even if you have been working with years with family members. Start today!

The contract should clearly state expectations, roles, and procedures. Go into as much detail as possible and sit down together to make sure you’re both on the same page. Should conflicts come up later on, this contract will serve as an impartial reference.

Communicate clearly and often

One of the biggest risks you take when working with family is the possibility of losing their love and support over a business decision. To avoid this, be sure to communicate roles and expectations clearly and often. While addressing certain business concerns with your loved ones can be difficult, it is 100% necessary to keep you both on the same page. Never allow an issue to build up over time. Schedule regular meeting times to address any issues/concerns. Encourage everyone to air any issues at this meeting. Don’t just wait for it to fester and eventually snowball into a huge issue.

Keep personal and professional separate

One of the fastest ways to demotivate your current employees is to show special treatment to family members. When you hire a loved one, set your personal ties aside at the office door and focus on business. Focus on creating a fair environment where all employees are treated equally.

If you’re interested in maintaining a strong personal relationship with your family member, this concept goes both ways. Keep your office hours professional, and your non-office hours personal. It’s easy to get sucked into always talking about the business—but this can damage your personal connection. Keep “off the clock” hours 100% personal in order to maintain a solid relationship outside of your business. After all, they’re family first.

Be honest with your team

If you do decide to hire a family member, be sure to be transparent about your ties with your employees. It’s very likely that some team members will have reservations and worry about the potential for unfair advantages. Take the lead by answering these questions before they’re even asked and show through action that you will treat him or her like everyone else.

Identify a trusted third party

Unfortunately, family-to-family communication may not solve all of your issues. If all else fails, you’ll need to have a trusted third party nearby to serve as a mediator. This person should be identified right from the start of your working relationship. If you don’t have an HR manager, hiring an external consultant or setting up a family council could also be viable options.

Mixing business with family is no walk in the park, but it is not impossible. Managing the relationship with care and treating them objectively can help keep both aspects of your relationship running smoothly.

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