When family members go into business together, it can be a big deal and it can be very challenging. The typical line between work and family disappears when you blend your family relationship into the world of business. It might even change the shape of the family relationship.
There’s a commonly held concern that going into business with a domestic partner or family member could ultimately put the personal relationship, as well as the business itself, at risk. The people who voice these concerns (let’s call them the cynics) often look for the problems, rather than the possibilities. We, however, know and have experienced the opposite. In fact, we actually believe that family dynamics and trust have the potential for an exciting and fun adventure like no other.
Please do not see the cynic’s point of view as real, as you stop the flow of your business and the possibilities that are available. When creating business with a family member, everything has to be about possibility, never about a problem. When you look for the problem, you will always create the problem. You have to create beyond other people’s points of view.
As family and life partners who conduct business together, you must recognize that you work in a very unique setting. Mainstream business strategy and theory will not always apply to your business setting. For your business to be about possibility rather than problem requires you to ask questions. It requires you to look from a different place.
The business environment has never been better for families to go into business. The new breed of business partners are increasingly family members choosing to work to create something lasting that supports the family’s lifestyle and aspirations.
Shared Vision is the key!
Mixing personal and business relationships can work an amazing magic for family members who enjoy being with each other. However, it can also be an immense tension and stressful existence without clear strategy and shared vision. Those family members who make it work tend to have a shared vision and a generative strategy that works for everyone concerned.
The use of a shared vision statement and a written strategy for the business works to ensure that all members of the family are on the same page and work toward the same target. This is one of the best and easiest ways to keep conflicts at a distance and to manage any business disagreement. It goes without saying that there are many settings for the family members to have conflicts, given all the ways in which their lives overlap, and their interests or viewpoints may be out of synch.
We all have different viewpoints, and, under certain sets of circumstances, those differences escalate to conflict. Conflict between family members can happen over legitimate concerns and important disputes, but it can also arise, or be accelerated, because of uncertainty. This can include overreaction to conclusions, projections, assumptions, or misinformation and misunderstanding.
In conducting a business with family members, the issues don’t have to be big to get a family irritated. Sometimes, seemingly small issues can create upsets, and launch a family on the path to escalating conflict. As the leader of your business, how you handle that conflict determines whether it works to the business’s advantage or contributes to its demise.
Creating a generative strategy
One of the immense benefits associated with being in business with your family or your domestic partner is the support that you’re able to give each other. However, to create a sustainable future, to have fun working in business together and enjoy being with each other every day, the business must have a foundation that will support everyone and allow each family member to shine and thrive in each other’s company. A business strategy can provide the foundation your family and your business need to stay on track to achieve your vision. A shared vision will allow you to live and work together in an effective way that minimises conflict.
Creating a generative strategy involves developing ‘strategic awareness’ and knowing what you want from your business. What is really essential are your targets, both financial and non-financial, that you need the business to generate in order to have the kind of success you want to create. Start asking “What is it we really would like to create here? What is it we can create? What choices do we have?” Identify what’s important and have clarity on where you all want to take the business over time. This sets the direction of the business over the long term and clearly defines the vision and strategy.
To have a shared vision and strategy, you first need to take a step back and explore each other’s values, assumptions, strengths and needs. Record and implement a feasible operating norm as well as clear up some conclusions, projections, assumptions expectations and judgments. Clarify how you will make decisions and talk about guiding principles for your business and how that relates to the future you see for both your business and your family.
A business must be run as a business.
When family members work together in a business venture, the line between personal and business gets very blurred. It is crucial to clearly allocate roles and responsibilities. This will prevent you from assuming who should perform a certain task and eliminates the amount of confusion and misunderstanding. It also enables each family member to make decisions in a timelier manner without feeling like they are stepping on each other’s toes. The lines of communication between family members can be effective only when roles and responsibilities within the business are well established.
The allocation of roles can have an enormous influence and a great impact on making your family partnership a successful one. In operating a business, many decisions have to be made. Well defined responsibilities not only reduce day to day conflicts but also give them decision-making power. This is a simple yet important principle in business partnerships with family members.
Steven and Chutisa Bowman have been CEOs of major organizations, Chairs of Boards and senior executives in multi-million-dollar global corporates. They now run 7 global businesses, including a consultancy business that assists organisations to become aware of their priority and vision, and to use this strategically. They are Access Consciousness facilitators for its specialty programs, including Wealth Creators Anonymous. Learn more about their work at, https://the2bowmans.com/.