According to a publication by the Small Business Administration, approximately 90% of American businesses are family owned. One of the unique challenges of running a family owned business, is the tie that forms between the family unit and the business.
For many business owners, the business in itself is like another child, sometimes making it difficult to make the correct decisions for both the family and the business. Having proper boundaries set in place along with advisors you respect will help to bring a healthy separation between both. This healthy division is of critical importance to the success of both the family and the business.
The Family Unit
When a business begins to become too attached to the family, relationships may begin to suffer. In order for marriages to stay strong and relationships with children to be fair and healthy, it is important that a life balance be found for the business owner, although that can be difficult. Some suggestions to create this healthy division and keep the family unit strong, despite the success of the business are:
- Guard specific hours every evening when business cannot be conducted. Use that time to focus on what is going on in your family, ensuring that they have your undivided attention.
- Date nights with your spouse every week will help keep your relationship vibrant. ï¿½If you and your spouse work together in the business, make it a point that business will not enter into the conversation at all. Focus on one another.
- Remember that life will continue, whether or not your business does. So, nurture your life: relationships, activities, and your personal development.
- Be careful of placing unfair expectations on your children regarding the business. Each child will at some point need to make a decision on what work they choose to devote their life to. Allow that to naturally develop.
When the Business Is Too Close to Your Heart
When the business has become a family member of sorts, it can make it difficult to make strategic decisions, thus jeopardizing the profitability and success of the business.
The New York Times posted a blog that discussed this very issue. In the blog they discussed a business owner, Julie, who loved her family business. Her mother had been very successful and Julie was also successful when she bought the business.
However, when Julie fell ill, she was not able to run it as effectively. Rather than selling the business while it was still extremely profitable, she held on to it as it degenerated in value. Her heart was so tied to the business, that she couldn’t bare to lose it.
This decision caused her to sell her business for much less and for her children to have to handle the entire matter once Julie had passed. The tie between Julie’s business and herself caused her to lose money that could have paid for her grandchildren’s education, and it added significant stress to the family she was leaving behind.
Allowing the input of professional advisors when she fell ill could have helped her have the information she needed to make a decision that would produce a favorable outcome.
It can be very difficult to maintain healthy boundaries while running a family business, but it is important to set up healthy guidlines to help you do so. It’s what both your family and your business needs.
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