I recently read an article from Nation’s Business regarding this topic. The article, written by Sharon Nelton, was several years old, but had some interesting insight into family business from David Bork, a consultant who has been advising family businesses since the late 60’s. Here are some of the qualities he feels are essential for families in business together.
1) Shared values – Your family should share similar values concerning people, work, and money. This way you can have a shared vision for the future of the business.
2) Shared power – Not the same as “equal” power. It refers to mutual respect for each other. Respect of their talents and abilities among generations, spouses and siblings. Decisions should be deferred to the person with expertise in that area of business.
3) Traditions – The family should foster new and renew old traditions that bond the family together and sets them apart from other families.
4) Willingness to learn and grow – The family should be open to new ideas and new approaches to solving problems within the business. Problems are only new opportunities to learn and grow together, even when you might have differing opinions.
5) Build relationships – Take time away from the family business to have fun together. The enjoyable times can help you survive the hard times and will help sustain family relationships.
6) Genuine Caring – You should express your feelings of concern for family members openly, to let them know that you do care about them. Sometimes it’s the little things you do that will say that you “really” care about another family member.
7) Mutual respect – You must have respect for one-another to be able to do business together. Knowing that your family can depend on you and that you can depend on others builds trust and mutual respect.
8) Support for each other – Even if a family member is having struggles, family members should assist and support one another. During times of grief, pain or even shame, you should be supportive of family members.
9) Respect privacy – When you are in business with family members there is a lot of togetherness. Be respectful of one another’s individual privacy and that of each family unit within the extended family. Don’t step over the line.
10) Interpersonal boundaries – A common family business related problem is conflict between two family members. Resist getting caught in the middle of a conflict that really needs to be resolved between the two family members.
According the Bork, understanding which of these traits you have, or need to work on, will help strengthen your family bonds and the success of your family business. What do you think?