How do you keep a family business together for multiple generations? There is no magic formula to guarantee that this can happen, but you can increase the likelihood that future members of your family will want to join your business by building a solid foundation based on seven characteristics:
Trust is a key to any successful relationship be it a business, family, or friendship. You must trust that those you work with will do the jobs they are assigned and that their focus is on the success of the organization. Those who see that you place your complete trust in will in turn develop feelings of trust for you and act accordingly.
In every relationship there must be mutual respect between the parties involved. When one party feels that they are better, or more important than others, they are taking focus away from the partnerships that can build mutually satisfying relationships. Families are about recognizing each other’s strengths and building upon those of each other; it also involves recognizing each other’s weaknesses and helping to overcome them or build them into strengths. This cannot be done when airs of superiority are presented among family members.
Loyalty is a character trait that is sadly lacking in the business world today; especially concerning is the increasing lack of loyalty among family members. Loyalty among family is more than key to its survival, it is an absolute necessity. Evidenced loyalty will provide family members with the confidence they need to trust each member of the family to do the right thing.
This may seem overly trite, but there must be love between family members. You cannot succeed when those you are dependent on for your success are not close to your heart. If your goal is to keep your business within the family and build it for the benefit of future generations, you must honestly, without ulterior motives, love your family; not just those who are participating in the business, but all members. Love among members of the family will build the loyalty, mutual respect, and trust that are needed to make your business a success.
Service to your customers and clients has always been a topic of discussion among successful organizations. The personal touch of offering clients service above and beyond what they might expect from an impersonal warehouse or department store type business will build a loyal customer base for every organization. In the family business another dynamic comes into play: Service to each other. You are not only striving to serve your customers, but you must serve one another. Family business is about building relationships of service to each other in order to make your business truly work as team and a family unit.
In any business, flexibility is key to survival and profit. It may even be more important in family businesses. As family members come and go, over the years and generations, each will bring different areas of expertise and interest. You must be able to adapt how structure your business, what products you create or offer, and how you actually conduct your business. Allowing family members the freedom and the excitement to bring their own personalities into the business may create a bond between them and the business that will become contagious to others within the organization, establishing a long lasting culture of innovation and flexibility.
Even though you are involved in a family business, there must be some separation between your business and family relationships. You must be able to separate the events that occur at work and those at home. Though difficult as it may be for families who are involved in a business together, their must be time to set aside the concerns of work and solely focus on building your family relationships. You cannot completely separate the family and the business because that is part of the dynamics that may make it succeed, but as much as possible you need to realize there are differences and a time and place for everything. One especially challenging part of this is when your business happens to be in your home. Having in effect a 24 hour per day business at home will make it difficult to keep the business and family separate. One way is to maintain a separate room in the home where you conduct your business. Once you leave the room, it is just as if you have left your office.
Building a successful multi-generational family business is a daunting task. Building a foundation from the above characteristics will go along way is helping achieve that goal.