You have probably seen the over-the-top dad on American Chopper or the patriarch of the pawn shop on Pawn Stars serving up a big heap of guilt to his family (and the hapless Chumlee). We love to watch these guys go ballistic and throw around snarky insults. From a tow truck fleet to a duck call company the family businesses on unscripted TV are the highest rated and most watched shows in the genre. Dad yelling a the kids isn’t news but when its in the context of a family business the conflicts are much more interesting. Take a typical family with the ins and outs of their relationships and add the pressures of a business and you really have some compelling drama.
Not every family business enterprise ends up with the members screaming their heads off or sobbing, of course, but working within complicated personal relationships may not be easy. There are some base issues at hand. Many family businesses are set up haphazardly and don’t have the clear cut systems in place that might be created when you start from scratch. Spouses and children may become partners by default, not by choice. Inheriting a title and position can lead to unfulfilled expectations on the personal and company sides. The son or daughter of the boss may not be liked or even like it-but the designation was a chance of birth.
The Clock Never Stops
Aside from the typical long hours of starting or running a business, family run company workers suffer most from not being able to separate work from home life: they simply can never get away from work. If you are married to your business partner you essentially take your work home every night. The exhaustion of repeating the day’s work and frustration of never getting to relax takes a toll on the business and marriage. If you have a problem at work its impossible to leave it there and go home to find an objective sounding board or shoulder to cry on. If there is a family event or reunion and someone is going to have to stay behind and run the shop, someone gets left out. No matter how much you love your work its important to human health to take mental and physical breaks. With a family run company it may be impossible to simply get away.
The Money, Honey
Money issues are at the root of most family in-fighting and rocky marriages. When the money problems are with the family company all the pressures are compounded. (To mitigate some of that stress, make sure you’re using all the free solutions you can, including WePay for online invoicing. If a couple relies on their business solely for their livelihood, it becomes a case of “all the eggs in one basket.” Families that have multiple streams of income have more options or ways to cope in a faltering economy. It is not like one spouse losing their job so the couple has the others’ paycheck to lean on. Families that are in business together typically sink or swim together.
All For One
For all the drawbacks that exist there are still tremendous upsides for families working together. Most of the advantages have to do with common cause, truly sharing a common goal. Most family businesses never have to lay out where they are going in a way that has to be explained to strangers forming a business. Families will share the burdens that other companies wont survive – they don’t give up as easily. Family members are all in and they will fight harder to save a faltering business or help a team member that may need a little lifting.
Communication Is Key
Whether its a company memo or the CEO’s annual speech, good communication is a foundation of running a successful business. Excelling at this key component is an advantage held by family businesses. Family businesses have their own unique methods and patterns in communicating, and may very well manage this much better than their non-family business competitors. It may be just that they have known each other their whole lives so they can pick up whats being said and what is not. It is often the case that siblings or spouses finish each others sentences. People who have been married for a long time have a certain way they can communicate in short hand.
Working in a family business or starting a company with your spouse can be a hard road to travel. Some people can’t take it and end up bickering like the folks on our favorite reality shows. But for the family that stays the course with their common purpose, communicates, and joins forces to help each other it can be a life of fulfillment. Shared ambition makes for a powerful team and shared success with the people closest to you is the greatest reward.