Adjusting the Business to Married in Family Members
If you've tried to keep everything about your business - or at least the core parts of it - within the family, dealing with newcomers who want to get involved can be difficult. But when people marry into your family they take on family concerns, so it shouldn't come as a surprise if they want to get involved with the business too.
How can you create appropriate opportunities for married-in family members and how far can you trust them with your business concerns?
Getting FamiliarWhen family members get married, it can take a while for their spouses to get used to the way things work within the family. Before they're ready to join the business they'll need to be able to demonstrate that they're properly familiar with it, too. One of the strengths of a family business is that it develops entirely within the family, so each generation has the chance to get to know it thoroughly before getting involved. If you're to open it up to new people without mishap, you'll need to make sure that they achieve a similar level of grounding.
The best way to familiarise any new person with your business is to take them on, initially, in a lower level position. Skilled newcomers shouldn't see this as an insult; explain carefully why you're doing it. As they work in that position they can get to know the company, and you can talk to them about what's happening at the management level and ask for their ideas and input.
Offer training where possible, give them the chance to shadow other workers, and make sure they're always aware that upward progression is available to them. When you feel they're ready you can look for an opportunity to employ them at a higher level where you an make full use of their talents.
Issues of TrustAnother great strength of the family business is that it is built on trust. You'll usually know exactly how well you can trust your family members, but it may not be appropriate to place too much trust in a newcomer just because they're married to one of your relatives. Just because that relative loves them does not, after all, mean that you'll hit it off with them straight away, or even that you'll like them. Take your time and try to create opportunities to build up this personal relationship before you get too closely involved in a business relationship.
Engaging in sporting activities, going for a drink, or taking a weekend break together are all good ways to get to know each other better and extend your comfort zone. Don't let anybody pressure you about this - trust your instincts and don't let concerns about family unity get in the way of your business judgement.
Creating OpportunitiesIf you need to create a new position within your business in order to make room for a married-in family member, try to build it around that person's particular talents. Look at their previous employment record and qualifications and see what they can do in a lower level position or on a contract basis in order to test their skills.
Involving a new family member can give you a great opportunity to take your business in a new direction or even to expand. They may have new ideas which can really give you a boost. Don't be afraid to take their suggestions on board - just do so carefully, and the business could really benefit.