Family And Business Can’t Be Separated
‘Just because you are a family member doesn’t mean you will get any special treatment in this business. I will treat you like every other employee.’
A true statement in theory but not so easy in practice. It is important that all and any family members be considered as one of the employees of the business. That means that they stand beside and with all the other employees and receive the same benefits, entitlements, and rights as every other person working in the business. They are paid the same, work the same hours, take the same leave entitlements, receive performance appraisals, and can be promoted or dismissed the same as any other employee. In some family businesses, this is not the reality. They don’t operate in this way and family members are seen as a ‘privileged’ group. I believe this is a mistake in many ways but, most importantly, it is not going to allow the best and most qualified people to be recruited, trained and retained in your business.
But there is another aspect far more important that impacts all family businesses. Good governance practice talks about separating family and business and not allowing the two to become intermeshed.
But, in daily life, it is impossible for a parent to work with their children (and vice versa) in a business and not bring all the dynamics of family relationships into the working relationship. It is to be expected and therefore actively managed. A parent often places a much higher expectation, maybe better expressed as a hope, on the performance of their children in the business.
Without even realising it, the children do get ‘special treatment’ but commonly in a harsh and unfair manner.
It’s impossible for the parent not to view the child as their child who they cared for and raised, and maybe in whom they have great dreams or bitter disappointment. And from the children’s perspective, parents from whom they seek encouragement, praise and acknowledgment of success. All of these aspects of their working relationships may exist and not even be recognised. From a succession perspective, all employees should be treated equally. And from a succession perspective, the unique dynamics of family relationships must be acknowledged and discussed within the work environment. Many a succession process has faltered, failed or not reached its potential because the obvious personal family dynamics are not acknowledged and addressed.