How To Overcome Common Family Business Challenges

May 04, 2017 10:30 AM by Aileron

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You can get wrapped up in a lot of emotion when it comes to a family business. Here are 4 ways you can gain perspective and better manage your emotions in a family business setting.  

overcoming family business challenges.jpg1. Define Your Purpose 

One of the things that family members can forget is why they have decided to be a part of the family business, and that can result in tension and conflict over expectations, roles, and responsibilities. 

This can be especially true for spouses that work together, says Margie Blanchard, co-owner of The Ken Blanchard Companies, which was founded in 1979 with her husband Ken. The Ken Blanchard Companies is one of the premier management consulting and training companies in the world.

“What's their vision for working together or starting a company together? Or, what is the vision if one spouse has run into some success and needs some additional help?” says Margie. One of the biggest things that you need to remember when working with family is your "why." click to tweet.png

For Margie and Ken, they had so many ideas for how to run a business that they wanted to be able to put those ideas into practice. They wanted to be able to learn and grow from that process themselves. “We actually got smarter and smarter both through our failures and through our successes, and we were able to help our clients more as we grew the business,” shares Margie.

When inevitable tension or conflict occurs in a family business, re-visiting the “why” can help the relationship you have with family members. “If we could remember the why—that it was going to help us not only as a couple, but also as a business, to be more helpful to our clients—then we could excuse a lot of mistakes and really put some stressful times into perspective,” she says.

2. Suspend Judgement

Are the conversations you're having consistently helping you to advance the business forward? tweet.png It’s often important to learn how to practice suspending judgement in a family business environment. Margie echoes this sentiment, saying how trust and grace can go a long way in helping to avoid or resolve conflict.

“Treat each other with grace and respect,” says Margie, who says doing so can help with problem-solving and working together as a unified team. “The most wonderful thing is to give the benefit of the doubt to other people, then you can give it to yourself—because this is a pioneering journey. Almost all small companies are pioneering. Nobody wrote the manual for them. They're trying to figure this out themselves.”

challenges with family business.png

3. Keep the Lines of Communication Open

Spouses (or family employees) can learn to recognize the real values, expectations, and the shared vision when working with one another; that’s not all that needs to be regularly communicated, however.

Kim Stout of Coastal Pet Products Inc., shares that being proactive about communication has been critically important in her role as COO. Coastal Pet Products Inc. is a family-owned and operated business that provides and manufactures lifestyle products that support the care and safety of dogs and cats.

Kim makes sure to regularly communicate about the evolution of the company with her father, who founded the company in 1968. Kim does this to balance legacy with change, which can also be a source of stress for family-owned businesses.

family business challenges aileron blog post.jpgThis kind of open communication has been invaluable to the business, but also in her relationship with her father: “I spend a lot of time talking with my father and sister about the business to understand what is important to them and to gain alignment. I also speak very candidly with my father about my hopes and fears and ask to understand his. This process has built our trust,” Kim explains.

4. Share Your Joy

When family employees know why they are involved with the business and they are proactive about communication, conflict can be avoided, and successes can be shared and celebrated across the family.

“When I see miracles happening, we both can enjoy those together, and those people together,” shares Margie. “We just had a 20-year anniversary for somebody that has practically been a poster child at our company for development. We were both so proud and that's a shared joy for us. There really are some great benefits from knowing the same colleagues and being involved in the same purpose.”

Strengthen Your Family Business

At the 2-day Course for Presidents®you can discover proven tools and principles to help you strengthen and advance your family business. The system you’ll learn will help you manage and develop your people, generate a strategic focus, enhance your operations, and promote accountability across your organization. 

Learn More About the Course for Presidents

A version of this post originally appeared on Forbes.com

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