Every one of my current and past clients run family-owned businesses. I see these traits everywhere I look.
We all know how tricky family relationships can be, especially when it comes to communication. When you add a business on top of regular family issues, it just becomes a whole other level of stress. Here are some concrete steps that you can take to minimize the amount of stress you share with each other.
1. Have defined expectations.
Maintain a clearly defined work boundary that everyone has agreed upon. Once you leave the office (or the room that serves as your home office), you’ll set aside any business-related discussion. Everyone must agree not to bring up any of the stressful issues you may be dealing with as long as you’re outside of this boundary.
Of course, you might want to have a business dinner at home if there’s an important topic to discuss. Do so in a deliberate fashion. Make sure that you’ve planned the conversation in advance as opposed to just dragging the worry and frustration home and dumping it at your loved ones’ feet. The key is to set the expectation up front.
This is one of the simplest things to do, but it’s also very easily forgotten. Business owners are constantly thinking about work so it’s hard to turn that part of your brain off. You really don’t have to—if you have something to say, write it down on a piece of paper or email it to yourself the next day. That way you won’t forget what was on your mind and you can set it aside until you’re back in a work environment.
What happens if you don’t have a clearly defined boundary? You’ll end up bringing your problems home with you. That’s just going to increase your stress level, especially if it’s a husband-wife business. If a husband and wife are dwelling on a work related issue, stress is going to continue to boil. The kids or other family members will see and feel it. The business will suffer and the family will suffer. That’s why setting those limits can foster a much healthier relationship amongst your family members who also happen to be your coworkers.
2. Include your children at a young age.
Your children are a part of the business, even if they aren’t going to become successors. That’s still true if they eventually decide to work somewhere else. Include them in business conversations at a young age so they’ll know what their mom or dad does at work every day. They’ll naturally want to learn more, and it’s also a great way to reduce your stress. It might sound like this contradicts my previous suggestion, but it doesn’t. There’s a big difference between sharing important discussions with your children and bringing stressful issues home with you.
3. Learn about your personality.
One of the best ways to improve communication within a family-owned business is to understand how you view and interact with the world. I highly recommend taking the Myers Briggs Type Indicator Assessment to learn more. If you understand how you process various topics from your own point of view, you’ll be able to have better, more productive conversations.
As always, I’m here to help you improve communication within your business. You can also get in touch with me if you’d like to take the Myers Briggs Type Indicator Assessment and learn more about the operating system of your mind.