1. A family business is still a business: Just because your brother or sister is your partner doesn’t change a thing; you need to see them as regular partners and run the business as though they were strangers.
2. Separate business from family: Yes, you might work in a home office, and yes, you’re working with people you’re related to, but you need to differentiate between working with family and behaving as family. Decide that work starts at 9am and finishes at 5pm – that’s when you talk about work, not at the breakfast or dinner tables. The second you start blurring the lines is the second that the company (and your family) start failing.
3. Decide who is doing what and put it in writing: The last thing you want is for people to start interfering in other parts of the work because “we’re family and they won’t mind”. By putting everything down in writing, everyone will know what they have to do in the business.
4. Don’t hire a relation because you feel sorry for them: Hire someone in the family because they’re good at a task and the company will benefit from their skills and expertise.
5. Every family has its own dynamics: Keep these separate from the business and don’t let people who are easily influenced make important decisions that can be swayed.
6. Have a succession plan: This will outline where the company will go in the future. Sure, you can’t force the younger generation to get involved if they don’t want to (they have their own career dreams and ambitions), but the rest of the family need to know who will be taking over. If your brother-in-law wants to become boss after you, but you think that your cousin would be better, you need this in writing so that there’s no confusion at the end of the day.
Family and business can be a dangerous combination, but it can also be one of the most rewarding. Just remember, it’s still a business, only you’re a lot closer to your partners and employees than at a regular enterprise. With a little bit of discipline and some firm foundations, a family business can prosper with the best in the industry.
By Craig Falck for Africa Report