Charles Bouri grew up involved in his father’s business, Seament, from a young age. Charles always knew he was going to follow in his father’s footsteps, and together the family made Seament strong. But running a family business has challenges, as well – some that have to be faced in order to remain functional and successful together.
Here are four key challenges to operating a family business, and the solutions that Charles Bouri has found:
1. Objectivity – This can be a major stumbling block for many family businesses. One of the great advantages of a family business is that you start off with a stable group of employees that you know you can trust—because they’re your family. But this can also make it hard to see changes that need to be made (or to broach these subjects when you do see them). Remember that successful businesses are built on merit. Performance, not just family ties, has to be rewarded. Periodically, you need to assess the people in key roles (especially if they’re family members) and ask what you would do if they were a total stranger you’d hired. Are they living up to expectations? If so, great; but if not, look at other options for their involvement.
2. Assigning the right roles to the right people – This goes hand in hand with #1 and often, a simple change in roles can be enough to solve any problems with a family member’s performance. Not everyone is good at managing projects, but if a loved one is struggling in that capacity maybe they’d be better at sales or keeping the books. And if a family member is chomping at the bit to get a position with more responsibility, consider setting specific benchmarks (in terms of performance or training) that will allow them to get their shot. Likewise, don’t overlook the contribution of non-family members; your hired employees may sometimes deserve a promotion over your relatives, and treating them fairly is going to go a long way toward ensuring their hard work and your success.
3. Accepting free spirits – If you run a family business, chances are good that you’d like to see your kids carry it on after you. But what if they don’t want to? Some family members will have their own dreams or simply be too independently-minded to stay in the family business. Give them their freedom—it will make everyone happier in the long run.
4. Opening it up – As your business expands, it will likely outgrow your family. That’s when it’s time to put the most dedicated and capable family members in leadership positions and transition the workings of the company to outside hires.
Do you run a family business? How have you overcome these challenges?