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Questions and Answers You Should Be Aware of Before Starting a Family Business

You love your siblings and parents, so why not run a business together? It's a little more complicated than you might think. On top of the challenges that all small business owners face, there are hurdles particular to working with a spouse, parents, or siblings. Here are a few questions and answers you should be aware of before you start a family-run business.

How to divide your work life from your personal life?

Did you like that one aspect of work where you got to leave the office at the office? Working for a family business might mean disconnecting from work is now a thing of the past. And your boss, or your co-worker, may be waiting for you at home, or in fact, may be that person spending the entire day with you. This means that tensions at work could spill over into your personal life and the lines between your personal and work life may become blurred. Talk can become centered on work, and you may feel like you have no life outside of work. To avoid falling into this pattern, decide on certain times of day where work talk is not allowed. Establishing boundaries will help you keep work-life balance under control. And respect the boundaries that other family members need to keep their lives in balance as well.

Who gets what in a divorce?

While no one wants to plan for the worse, 40 to 50 percent of marriages in the US end in divorce.

According to Malonis Law, a divorce lawyer, “Even in equitable distribution states there may be disagreements on marital assets.” If you will be running your business with a spouse, take into consideration what will happen in the event of a split. You may decide to continue working together after a divorce, or you may find doing so is too much of a stretch. In either case, having a lawyer help finetune the language in a legal document will make it less difficult to navigate.

How do employees advance in a family-run business?

In a corporate setting, the ladder to advancement is often clearer than in a family-run business. If you have staff on hand, they may feel that there are no places for advancement if all the management positions are being held by members of your family. This could lead to losing great talent due to no advancement opportunities for non-family employees. Find ways to give your employees new opportunities for growth if that is what they are looking for. Touch base regularly with them to find out what their short-term and long-term goals are and how they might enhance your business’s goals.

How to handle emotional relatives (who are also coworkers)?

Having a sensitive sibling takes on a whole new meaning when that sibling is a coworker and someone with a work ethic that needs some adjusting. Work assessments can take on awkward and minefield-like properties as relatives try not to step on each other’s egos. But things that are left unsaid can lead to poor business management and ill-advised decisions. So how do you get past not wanting to hurt feelings but needing to be honest for the sake of the business? By being upfront that sensitivity is a common problem in all family-run businesses. Make it an agenda point on your weekly meetings to discuss how everyone is faring in keeping ego and sensitivity out of everyday work life. The more you can tackle it head on, the less power it will have.

Working with your family and relatives can be a fulfilling and joyful experience. Protecting the relationships you have with your family is one of the most important endeavors in life. By keeping the above aspects in mind, you will be doing what you can to ensure your home and your work life are happy and prosperous.



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