Partnerships – Keeping It In The Family

bizmanagementcirclesAfter my discussion of general business partnerships the last few weeks, I felt it was fitting to write on a subject matter that many people often avoid talking about – family partnerships.

Working with others is difficult as is, let alone when adding personal relationships to the mix. A family partnership adds more challenges, and it is important to consider these before agreeing to work with relatives.

The most critical question to ask yourself is “are you bringing the family member into the partnership because they can help grow the business and complement your skills, or simply because they are related to you?”

In my experience, it is often the case that family partnerships are based on the wrong reasons.  For example many SMB owners invite their children into the business in hopes that they’ll take over the business, want to help out a family member who is out of work, or hire their spouse as a way to improve childcare arrangements.

Unfortunately, it is often the case that when family is involved, family comes first and the business comes second.

Using my 4 steps from last week, I’ve outlined below what you should consider before adding a family member into a partnership dynamic.

1. Giving Up Control

If you’re bringing in a family member who does not actually have the skill set you need or is not complementary to your abilities, then it is unlikely that you will trust them to effectively do their job and that takes away from your own work and productivity. Think of the value they bring to the business.

2. Setting Common Goals

Sometimes your passion, determination, and perseverance are not mirrored in a family member, so setting common goals can be difficult if they do not feel aligned with the business’s goals.

3. Working as a United Front

Mixing family and work can mean bringing personal matters into your business. What happens at home does not always stay at home! The concern is personal issues may be transparent to staff, clients, and suppliers, which can seriously hurt the day-to-day business operations as well as relationships with stakeholders.

4. Putting the Business First

The old saying “family comes first” applies to many aspects of life, but not business.  Involving family means that the business is often going to take a back seat when a family “issue” arises like needing time off, or meeting deadlines.  If only one partner puts the business first, then it can not only hurt a partnership, but also hurt the business.

What are your experiences with family and business? Have you ever been a part of a family partnership, or worked with one? Let me know in the comments.

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One Comment on “Partnerships – Keeping It In The Family”

  1. Mark Scarrow says:

    We see a lot of client situations where family co-exists unhappily in family businesses. There is potential for conflict and tension that appears to be difficult to deal with. The best situations involve family members joining a business when they have proven themselves outside the business in question, and bring their own expertise to the family organization. If they are sufficiently skilled they can leave if things don’t work out – they aren’t stranded or trapped.


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