Your family business is made up of diverse individuals who have decided to come together with the goal of making the business a success. In today’s world, it is highly likely that many of them are specialist with skills specifically tailored for one role in the business. As the family business manager, your role is to bring this group together to get things done and meet the goals of the business. The key to this is collaboration. When all family team members work together and cooperate the entire family will succeed.
However getting any group of diverse people together to work towards a common goal is difficult. When you compound the situation with this diverse group being part of the same family, the difficulty is often greater. Succeeding in managing the family business relationship can be extremely rewarding for the patriarch/matriarch or other family business leader. However it can also be unnerving and totally frustrating as well! If you struggle with successful collaboration, here are 6 tips to help you improve it among your team members.
The goals and expected outcome of the business in general and each activity should be clearly defined to all members of the team. Each member’s responsibility should be explicitly identified and documented in writing. Often times, what is obvious to a family business leader is not so obvious to all team members. When you set expectations and milestones in writing, everyone will know what to do next and which family member is responsible. Delegate key responsibilities to the family members who can make an impact on the success of the business.
As a family business, the team you work with may be determined by simply being a member of your family. However, you can choose which individuals work on specific tasks or milestones. Choose wisely and consider the right person for the job based on their skills, personality, and their ability to work with other members of the team.
Are there members of your family who are afraid to voice their opinions or to argue? Remember, just because they are quiet doesn’t mean they don’t have good ideas. You should encourage them to express their ideas and not be intimidated by more out-going family members. Strive to include all family members in each discussion related to their role or the overall success of the family business.
Encourage your family members to socialize outside of work. You may think this is a given since they are related. However, after spending all day with family members at work, they may avoid it outside of business hours. If they socialize outside of the office, it can be a good way to open up communication channels and break down walls of mistrust or misunderstanding.
Recognize and acknowledge good collaborative behavior. Don’t neglect to highlight what each family member is doing at a company meeting, in a newsletter or even in a podcast. People like to be recognized for a job well done and that includes Uncle Bill, Cousin Joe and Sister Sue.
Provide your family team with necessary tools. What do they need to effectively reach their milestones and goals? This might be specific software, contact management tools or task management programs. If some of your family members work remotely, this becomes especially important.
Once you have your family business working together like an all-star sports team, mix things up a little. Why would you do this? If the people on your family business team get used to only collaborating with a small cliché of the team whom they like and trust, the different departments may lose touch. This can be something as simple as inviting your outside sales person to the design meeting (and vice versa!) Your design group may get some interesting insight from your sales person who may have knowledge of what customers are looking for or need. A company outing is a great way to have all teams come together and connect.
Even in a family business environment, there is room to improve collaboration among members. Each family team member should know their role in the day to day activities of the business as well as the overall goals.