Man and woman looking confrontational in office.

Conflicts are a normal part of marriage, raising a family, and running a family business. But not all family businesses have the same degree of interfamily conflict – conflict is usually greater when family businesses are not following a formal management structure, one that adheres to firmly established policies and standard practices.

If you’re thinking, “My business is far from having ‘standard policies and practices,’ you’re not alone. At AdviCoach, our business coaches will readily admit that most family-owned businesses have an informal management structure, especially when they first start out. While this is standard among family businesses, it can create problems, a glass ceiling of sorts that prevents family-owned businesses from reaching their true growth potential.

Family Business Doesn’t Have to Be a Battlefield

Not surprisingly, conflicts are more predominant in family businesses than non-family businesses. Often, if there is a dispute about one issue, it can quickly spread into other areas of the business, and this is counterproductive.

If it feels like you’re stepping onto a battlefield every day, you should consider working with a business coach. A coach can act as a mediator. They can help you deal with family feuds, personality clashes, and disagreements over how to build the company, succession, and so on. Once a coach understands your family’s dynamics, he or she can be a voice of reason, a negotiator, and they can help facilitate practical, long-term solutions.

Our business coaches understand that while every family business is unique, there are common issues that plague many family businesses. Here is some advice from our coaches to get started on conflict resolution:

Tip No. 1

Avoid putting family members on the payroll if they aren’t actually working on the business as this creates animosity for those who are working for a paycheck. In startups, each employee wears many hats, and this is where conflicts can arise. Firmly establish each person’s role, responsibilities, and compensation. And, make sure you conduct job performance reviews for family and non-family employees alike.    

Tip No. 2

Be careful not to show family members special treatment. This means, don’t go harder or easier on them because they’re family. Instead, treat family and non-family employees the same. If others are being disciplined for misconduct, the family member involved must be disciplined as well. On the other hand, reward all employees for exceptional work if they deserve it – this includes family and non-family employees.  

Tip No. 3

Be honest with all of your employees; don’t hide the fact that certain employees are family members as this will only breed distrust. Also, non-family employees shouldn’t feel like they’re in the dark about company operations because they’re not relatives. It’s important to keep open and honest communication with all members of the organization. To foster loyalty and a great company culture, hold company retreats in addition to family retreats. 

Tip No. 4

Don’t let family members abuse their family ties. Meaning, don’t let family employees use company vehicles for pleasure, don’t let them take office supplies home for personal use, and don’t let them charge family vacations and personal meals on the business credit card. You have to keep the business professional. Would you say “yes” if it was a non-family employee? For example, “Would I let my other employees dine at fine restaurants on the company’s dime?” Or, would you let non-family employees take the company Mercedes on a road trip for the weekend? 

Tip No. 5

Intentionally make time to separate the business from the family. In other words, create healthy boundaries between the business and your family, especially if you’re running the business with a spouse. Create some kind of a system, agree to it, and then stick to it. For example, don’t talk about the business after dinner, or while on family vacations. Put the cellphone down at the dinner table, ditch the laptop when you go on vacation, or no checking emails between the hours of 7 and 10 PM – whatever works for you! Remember, if you don’t tend to your family relationships outside the business, one day you may not have those relationships.

At AdviCoach, we understand the nuances and dynamics involved in family businesses and what sets them apart from non-family businesses. To learn more about the coaching services we offer, and how they can help your family business, contact us today to get the conversation started.