Family businesses have played a central role in the economy for centuries, and if run properly, also allow your family to benefit from its members’ trust, expertise, and communication skills. For your business to succeed, however, you must take care to treat all employees fairly, respect privacy, and avoid assigning unclear duties. The following tips will help you create a company culture that is fair, productive, and beneficial to both the business and the employees:
The first step in promoting family business productivity is to make it widely known that your company is a family business, that you have hired family members, and that all employees, regardless of relation, are important to the success of the company. Communication begins with honesty and fairness, with clear goals defined. This is another way to emphasize professional accountability among all employees, family or not.
Define Clear Duties
Don’t be tempted to hire relatives before you’ve defined a clear job position for them to fill. You may be think that because certain family members are intelligent, skilled, and dependable, they will make valuable employees, and thus rush to hire them before they take jobs somewhere else. If you don’t give them concrete jobs, however, it may take weeks or even months before they’re able to figure out how to productively contribute to the company. Through no fault of their own, your relatives – like any employee – can become a drain on company resources. To prevent this, only hire relatives, or any new employees, if you have specific tasks and goals for them.
Besides only hiring relatives for specific, necessary positions, you should not give your family members preferential treatment in employment, wages, or company authority. If you establish a culture of nepotism, family members will feel that they can succeed in your business regardless of whether they make positive contributions, while non-relatives will feel that no amount of work will earn them the status that your relatives enjoy; neither group will have an incentive to work hard. Hire, promote, and pay all of your employees according to their contributions, regardless of whether they are in your family.
Inquire for Information
Once you have eliminated nepotism, you can further increase workplace productivity by letting your family members provide you with valuable company information. One of the benefits of running a family business is that relatives often have the confidence to critique their bosses if some aspect of their management style is ineffective or harmful. Say that unbeknownst to you, one of your employees is harassing others; ordinary employees may be afraid that you won’t believe them if they report this harassment, but relatives will trust you to believe them and take decisive action. Relatives thus provide information that can help other employees feel safe and express concerns.
In gaining information from family members, be careful to respect their privacy. Just because you’re related does not give you the right to spread what they’ve told you. If you do this, you risk betraying their trust, making them less likely to report problems to you in the future. Demonstrate to your relatives, and to all employees willing to share information with you, that they were right to trust you.
Furnish Formal Feedback
Family business owners often fail to offer their relatives feedback, either because they don’t want to make family relationships awkward or because they think they interact with relatives often enough to know if they’re doing their jobs well. Don’t fall into this trap. Even if you know your relatives have been doing a job, a performance review will allow you to determine which tasks they do best and modify their duties accordingly. To avoid awkward reviews, frame your feedback around what your relatives are doing well rather than what they don’t do well. Any choice you make for relatives’ feedback, however, you should also make for other employees.