Five things to consider before you launch a family business

Family Business

Monique Bolland with father and Nuzest co-founder Trevor Bolland. Source: Supplied.

When my father Trevor Bolland decided to start a nutritional supplement company in 2011, he encouraged me to sell my own business and help him create the Nuzest brand.

It wasn’t a decision I made lightly, because working with family can get complicated.

But now, eight years later, the company is still run by my father, my husband, and myself.

Before you bring business into the family, here are five things I think you need to know.

1. It’s hard to separate work from family when you’re in business together

Everyone always says when you work with family you have to learn to separate the two. And anyone who has ever actually worked with family knows that this is easier said than done.

When people have things in common, it’s only natural that they want to talk about them. I know that with three of us in the same family running the business, it’s inevitable it will come up in conversation outside the office.

You just need to be conscious of it. Try to limit work talk to only what truly cannot wait until Monday, and if there are disagreements at work, leave those in the office where you’re less likely to react emotionally.

2. Make sure your vision and goals are aligned from the start

It’s important in any business partnership that you’re all working towards the same goal.

This is even more important in a family business where everyone’s livelihood depends on its success – you all need to agree on what ‘success’ looks like.

You won’t agree on every little detail, but you need to aligned on the general plan. What is your brand position? What is your overarching strategy? What is the long-term plan? Are you aiming to grow the business and hand it down to the next generation, to publicly list, or to build up to a certain value and sell?

3. Treat family members like you would any of your other colleagues

Considering the relationship outside of work, it can be easy to either treat family members more favourably, or to be harder on them than you would another colleague.

Aside from any issues this may cause in your relationship, it can breed resentment among other staff. It’s important to treat everyone equally and fairly if you want a happy and productive team.

4. Clearly define (and respect) each other’s roles in the company

While collaboration in the workplace is generally a good thing, stepping on people’s toes at work is a sure-fire way to create tension.

When you’re working with family, the boundaries are already a little blurred. It’s important to recognise and respect each others skillsets and clearly define your roles in the company, not only for your benefit, but to ensure the rest of the team knows who to turn to in different situations.

5. If you get it right, you couldn’t pick better people to be in business with

Your family members know you better than anyone else. They know which buttons to push to illicit a response, but they also tend to understand you better than anyone.

Your shared life outside of work means you’re often more sensitive to what the other person needs to function at their best, or when they are overwhelmed and need extra help.

NOW READ: The importance of values and communication at the family business roundtable

NOW READ: How twins Emily and Sarah Hamilton grew their startup to 40,000 subscribers, and why they stopped that growth on purpose


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