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Create effective rules for your family business meetings

Family business rules

Part 1 of a 3-part series on running a family business

Running a business with your family can be incredibly rewarding, but when working with family members, ordinary conflict can take on a new dimension. The interconnected nature of a family business means that workplace issues, family drama and business conflicts can come together to create serious problems and communication breakdown. Set your family business up for success by creating formal processes and strategies that help to mediate disputes and create better communication during family business meetings.

Consider some ground rules — Establishing straightforward ground rules when going in to family business meetings can help balance family relationships with business relationships. These rules can help to ease undercurrents of perceived slights, past conflicts and grievances that can interfere with good communication. Consider compiling a list of rules such as:

  • Don't interrupt when others are speaking
  • Don't monopolize discussion
  • Be on time
  • Work cooperatively, not competitively
  • Don't have outside discussions that exclude some members of the group
  • Stay with the big picture; don't get caught in the details

Know the objective — Go in to meetings with a clear purpose. Take time to think about what should be discussed and what needs to be accomplished with each family business meeting. This is most easily done by creating an agenda before the meeting that family members are allowed to add items to ahead of time.

Communicate openly — When running a family business, it is vital to communicate honestly and openly with all employees, including non-family employees. Giving special treatment or giving more information to family and friends can de-motivate and alienate non-family employees who provide great value to your business. In family business meetings, you'll also want to foster an environment that allows open and honest communication.

Establish boundaries — It's important to make sure that you can create healthy boundaries between family and business. Agree to adhere to a system that allows you to have time away from work. Some families won't talk business after 6 p.m., at home on the weekends or during family vacations. You also may want to create a rule that certain things need to be discussed in family meetings before being implemented in the business.

By creating a good communication environment in your family business, you can work to ensure that your business continues for generations to come. For more advice and information, visit the Business Resource Center.

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The information contained herein may not represent the views and opinions of California Bank & Trust, a division of ZB, N.A. or its affiliates. It is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.
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