Working with your family has many bonuses, but there’s also things you need to consider and put in place to ensure the office remains the office and home remains a happy place
Working with relatives presents a unique set of challenges, but they don’t have to be overwhelming. It can be an incredible experience, and you’re not likely to find a more tight-knit team than those that share genes.
Working with your family has so many bonuses, but there’s also things you need to consider and put in place to ensure the office remains the office and home remains a happy place. Separating the demands of the business from the dynamics of the family can be particularly challenging at times, but by providing a clear structure and with some extra planning, you can develop a family business that’s productive and harmonious.
There are many benefits and drawbacks to working with family. On the one hand, it can mean a loyal and trusted confidant, whilst on the other, it can mean a stressful and unprofessional relationship that doesn’t add value to your business.
Angie Coates, founder and CEO of Monkey Music, shares her own personal tips for creating a family work environment where everyone gets along to build something meaningful together.
Set clear expectations
The best way to start your working relationship with a family member is to clearly communicate what you expect of them. Provide a job description that outlines their duties, responsibilities and functions, making it clear whom they report to, if not to you.
My daughter worked for Monkey Music as a graduate trainee for a year and it proved to be a great success for us both. She gained valuable experience and knowledge of working in a business, while I provided her with a solid foundation upon which she can now build her career in whatever profession she chooses. Prior to her starting, I clearly communicated my expectations for our relationship at work, which made it easier to separate our personal relationship from our professional one. I also ensured that I was not her direct line manager. I was also mindful of her skills, wants and needs to support her aspirations, at the same time as supporting the needs of the business. I also hadn’t appreciated what I learnt from working with her, this was a real bonus, particularly as she is fearless and extremely professional.
Keep it professional
Whether running or working within a family business, it’s important to leave the office at the office, and home life at home. Avoid discussing family matters at the weekly team meeting, particularly when there are non-family members attending, and call each other by first names, never mum or dad. This applies to all written communication such as emails too. Keep it clear, keep it respectful and keep it professional at all times!
The toughest part about balancing a work-family relationship can sometimes be making sure you spend non-work time with your family member who is also a work associate. Even if you spend all day together, you still need quality time to remember that family comes first.
Communication in any business is essential, but with a family business, it brings new levels of consideration. From day one, establish great communication, keep things clear and to the point and try to avoid getting emotional or confrontational. By having a structure in place and dealing with any problems directly in a supportive way, you will eliminate any potential friction or hostility.
When you combine family with work, you need to be careful of undue favouritism, nepotism and family politics getting in the way. It’s so important to set the terms of the agreement at the beginning of employment. Having a structure in place, can prevent special treatment and provide a fair and impartial environment in which to work, without the complications of family dynamics interfering with career growth and performance.
Treat all employees equally
All employees should be treated fairly and, family members or not, receive equal benefits, pay and consideration. If other employees feel that a family member is getting preferential treatment, it can cause resentment and conflict, which makes for a hostile work environment. Be clear with family members from the outset that they will be treated fairly but equal to the rest of your team.
Ensure they are qualified for the job
Many small business owners fall into the trap of hiring a family member just because they are family, not because they’re the best person for the job. Though it may seem like the right thing to do in the moment, this can hurt your business in the long run. If you’re considering hiring a family member, make sure they have the qualifications and experience necessary to do the job, and they do it well.
Many people hire family members when starting a business and it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. Jennifer Griffin of Monkey Music Fleet chose to work with two of her relatives in her franchise business. Together they have a willingness to succeed, as well as an unrivalled dedication to the family and the business.
“Both my brother-in-law and mother-in-law work in the franchise as Monkey Music teachers and they have been with me from the very start, helping me prepare for the launch this September. We have always been close and got on extremely well – they’re not related – so when we decided to join forces, we were able to have honest conversations about the business, agreeing with our shared goals and vision.
“I have complete trust in Carl and Belinda’s capabilities and, knowing them as well as I do, I knew our customers would also love them. They both demonstrate and share a level of commitment to the business that only family would bring. Not only do they have their Monkey Music contracts in place, but we have a verbal agreement between us of honesty and communication. We all get on brilliantly and our different backgrounds and experience bring something special to the table,” said Jennifer.
Working together in a family business presents both unique advantages and disadvantages, but there are things you can do to help keep things running smoothly. Our family rule is that when we are together for family time, the conversation of business needs to be left at the door. We want to nurture our family relationships and make sure they’re not just built on a business interaction.
Angie Coates is the founder and CEO of Monkey Music. She used her passion for music, having studied at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama with stars of stage and screen, to build a hugely successful business and subsequently franchised it to scale up the brand nearly 30 years ago.