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3 Must Dos to Ensure Family Survives Your Family Biz

What’s the best way to mix family fun with getting things done?

Easy. Don’t.

The boundaries between business and pleasure at a family-run business are every bit as important as the load-bearing walls. When these boundaries start to crack, inefficiency begins to seep through. And if the business isn’t operating to its full potential, family get-togethers are going to feel more like board room battles.

CEOs who adopt these three best practices will help stakeholders understand when it’s time to act like a family and when it’s time to act like a business.

1. Unclutter your communication.

Hey, just another quick reminder that the Smith account is still past due. We should square that before the end of the week. Looking forward to seeing you at Jimmy’s soccer game on Saturday! Should we all go out for ice cream after? 🙂

Whether it’s emails, text messages, or phone calls, these kinds of communications are all-too common during work hours at family-run businesses. Adding a personal touch to a work email you’re sending your cousin might just seem friendly. But the mixed messaging dulls urgency, accountability, and focus, especially between between leaders and subordinates. I’d bet that come Saturday, there’s going to be lots of passive-aggressive sniping at that soccer game about how the Smith account is still in the red.

Also, what if the Smiths didn’t just forget to mail a check? What if settling this account becomes a major problem? What if there’s an audit and a third party needs to review all relevant communication? Your board might look at smiley faces and ice cream and think that the parties involved were too focused on family fun to notice a crisis brewing.

There’s a reason you’re paying for a work email server and work cell phones. Use them the right way so that objectives are always clear and both personal and professional tasks get done at the appropriate time.

2. Keep your conference room out of the dining room.

“Don’t take your work home with you” is excellent advice that that can feel nearly impossible for the CEO of a family-run business. What we do is a part of who we are. When you’re spending time with co-workers in a social situation, it’s natural that work topics are going to slip into the conversation. When those co-workers — or employees — are family, office issues and personal issues can get tangled up in messy and often hurtful ways.

But even if the mood is positive, are you really making the best use of family time by celebrating a great client pitch? Do your spouse and kids want to spend more time with the family CEO than they already do?

Sticking to rule number one will make it easier to keep shop talk out of family functions. If everyone’s work cell phone and laptop aren’t within reach during dinner, then the office will stay closed.

However, it’s just as important to keep family issues from flaring up during business hours. At work, your favorite nephew is just another employee who needs to understand that you’re holding him to the same standards as any other employee. And if any bad blood is making it difficult for the CEO to lead through critical transitions, it might be necessary to turn to your family constitution, consult with your board, or bring in a third-party facilitator who can help clear the air and realign the family to the business.

3. Master your On/Off switch.

Running a successful business is hard enough. CEOs of family-run businesses have the added stress of managing personal and professional relationships and honoring a legacy that might stretch back generations.

But being the boss does have its perks, and one of the BIGGEST is that you set your own schedule. Sometimes, leaving work at work is as simple as a spur of the moment decision to take a half day and treat yourself and your spouse to an extended date night. Or, maybe you decide that the weekly 9 AM meeting starts at 9:30 now so you have an extra half hour to take a morning jog and take some self-care.

Another CEO perk is that you’re the leader. If, come 6 PM on Friday night, you stop answering your work phone and set up email autoreplies, even the resentful little brother who second-guesses everything you do is going to take the hint. The rest of your family might start following your example and start flipping their own on/off switches as well.

Suddenly that family soccer game is just a family soccer game. You’re all having fun, recharging, and nurturing the relationships that, come Monday morning, are going to funnel nothing but positive energy into making BIG happen for the business.


About Mark Moses

Mark Moses is the Founding Partner of CEO Coaching International and the Amazon Bestselling author of Make BIG Happen. Mark has won Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award and the Blue Chip Enterprise award for overcoming adversity. His last company ranked #1 Fastest-Growing Company in Los Angeles as well as #10 on the Inc. 500 of fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. He has completed 12 full distance Ironman Triathlons including the Hawaii Ironman World Championship 5 times.

Mark Moses
FOUNDING PARTNER & CEO

About CEO Coaching International

CEO Coaching International works with CEOs and their leadership teams to achieve extraordinary results quarter after quarter, year after year. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 1,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 60 countries and 45 industries. The coaches at CEO Coaching International are former CEOs, presidents, or executives who have made BIG happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $10 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight, nine, and ten-figure exits. Companies working with CEO Coaching International for two years or more have experienced an average EBITDA CAGR of 67.8% during their time as a client, nearly four times the U.S. average and a revenue CAGR of 25.5%, more than twice the U.S. average.

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