Being in business is often fraught with daily, difficult decisions. Some of these decisions are relatively minor and others can be deemed to be major. It is the major ones that have the most likelihood of disturbing the “norm” or what is perceived to be normal. The challenges and results of these major decisions are something that business managers and owners have to live with constantly. Now, let’s add a twist!!
What if those major decisions directly or indirectly affected YOUR family members who work (and those who do not work) within the organization?
What About the Children?
There is nothing normal about these types of decisions that family business owners face. The complexity is only further enhanced because it may affect someone who they love and “would do anything for”. I am referring to decisions that may affect a child or children in the business. We never stop being parents to our children but when does being their boss put a huge strain on that relationship?The answer is, that strain never goes away. How does a mother or father who have literally sacrificed almost everything over the years to build that business, choose which one of their children are to be the next leader? Is it the oldest? The child who has been there the longest? Is it the youngest child or perhaps the one with the most education? What about that terrific new son/daughter-in-law? Maybe I should sell the company so this problem just goes away? WOW! How can any one of these decisions not create potentially irreversible damage to the family?
The successful journey can look like…
The answers lie somewhere in the notion of laying the groundwork early. This means making NO promises to any one individual in the family about what “guarantees” may lie ahead.
This means setting the expectations early and reminding everyone of them quite often.
This requires constant communication and feedback involving all members of the family (and their management team) as to how their performance is, where they can improve in their contribution to the company, and how they can maximize their relationship with all of the others.
The idea is that everyone should have an equal opportunity to demonstrate their passion and knowledge for the business is a good one. But that is where the equality stops and the difficult decisions must take over.
Everyone runs at a different pace, learns in a different way and reacts to pressure in their own way. Maybe the first difficult decision was inviting a child into the business? What if they clearly do not belong? How can I get them on a path so THEY will be happier in life that may not involve the family business?
This is a topic worthy of a book, not just a brief article.
The key may be to just involve someone from the outside, who understands family businesses, who understands all of the complexities of good or bad decision-making and can provide you with the expert advice and guidance on how to most effectively deal with all of the business and family related issues.
Can you afford NOT to Make the Difficult Decisions?
It has been and always will be a challenge for family business owners to separate out the family from the business. Most of the time it truly is impossible, as the identity of both is too interwoven. The difficult decisions must be made regardless of some “ripple” effect that may surely follow.
Have an expert guide you through and help you analyze the impact of the potential outcome.
It may not make the decision easier to make, but you will have the confidence that it was done after careful and thorough analysis with the right guidance.
NOT making a decision is the worst one you could make!