success in a family run businessI once agreed to be a guest on a radio talk show. I thought we would be discussing marketing tips. Not so!

The radio hosts had noticed that in addition to me, my husband, two sons and a daughter-in-law all worked at EMSI Public Relations. So rather than talking about marketing, the hosts asked me about the dynamics of working in a business with so many family members.

Before answering that question, I pointed that there were even more family members working at EMSI—a mother and daughter and in the past other married couples!

In light of that, I observed that our whole company is like one big family, whether or not the employees are related by blood or marriage.

In that regard, EMSI is not unusual. According to the Small Business Administration, 90 percent of small businesses are family owned and operated.

We are certainly not perfect, but I think we owe some of our business’s success to learning how to work every day alongside the people we married or gave birth to.

3 tips for peaceful co-existence in a family-run business

Here are a few things I have discovered that can help keep things running smoothly when family and business mix.

#1)  Arrange for the entire staff to spend fun time together.

This is important for nurturing genuine caring, which is essential to forming a tight-knit team, or a tight-knit family. Co-workers who care about one another tend to jump in to help when they see someone struggling, so whatever is broken get fixed…fast. Co-workers encourage one another and are more honest about their feelings, which means conflicts are aired and resolved, not allowed to fester.

Some of that caring comes from spending time together doing non-work activities, like taking a Friday afternoon off so the whole office could go bowling. These fun events help relationships expand and grow.

#2)  Don’t talk about work during your commute—or once you get home.

For many younger married couples with children, this may be easy. They head straight from the office to the day care to pick up their kids. From then until bedtime, it is all about the children.

However, for my husband and me, it is too easy to rehash the day’s events, dissect problems, or work through plans after we leave the office. So instead of giving in to this temptation to extend the workday even longer, we talk about family matters, friends, movies, or what we are going to do on the weekend ahead. It is important to have a healthy interest in concerns and activities beyond the office walls; you cannot be happy if you are consumed by only one aspect of your life.

#3)  If there is a quarrel, whether it is between family members or unrelated employees, keep it contained.

Some experts say you should never display anger at work, and others say doing so can be a good thing. But I cannot think of any instance when people who witness a blow-up are more productive, creative, resourceful or innovative in the aftermath.

Angry outbursts create tension, and when you are really angry, you are likely to say things you later wish no one else had heard. At our office, tempers do occasionally flare. Most of us take those arguments for a walk outside or at least close the office door to resolve our differences without upsetting everyone else.

In my perspective, the benefits of working with husbands, sons and daughters far outweigh any disadvantages.

Doing so builds the culture of family, one that, if you are lucky, not only draws everyone in the office together, but extends to your clients as well.

What’s been your experience in balancing work and life with lots of family members at work?


Today’s guest contributor is Marsha Friedman, a public relations expert, founder/CEO of EMSI Public Relations, author, advisor on PR issues and strategies, and speaker.

Image source before quote added:  morgueFile