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Family Business: A Whole Family Commitment

By: Jennie Kermode - Updated: 15 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Commitment Family Business Family

Family Business: a Whole Family Commitment

Starting up a family business is a big undertaking, even if you're going about it on a relatively small scale. It involves making a major commitment of time and resources and, no matter how you approach it, it will inevitably put pressure on the family as a whole. Even those not directly involved in the business will find themselves asked to help out from time to time, to cope with extra stress within the household, and, often, to take on greater domestic responsibilities. For this reason, the decision to start up a business like this has to be one made by the whole family.

Pressures on the Family

Starting a business which is centred within the family can make life difficult for everyone, not just for those directly involved. It's important to plan ahead and consider the sort of things which are likely to be problems for you, making sure everyone is ready to deal with them. No matter how carefully you plan your commitment to the business, you will be more tired and more stressed than usual. This means you may snap at those close to you and be difficult to deal with. Is everyone prepared to deal with that?

If more than one person in your immediate household is involved in the business, can you avoid escalating rows if you snap at each other? And how will you handle the time commitments you're making? Can you still manage to get a good balance of work and family life? If both parents of dependent children are involved in the business, can the children still be adequately provided for? Can you still take care of your family responsibilities and - importantly - find the time to be together as a family without work intruding?

Making Sure Everyone Gets a Say

When you make a big family decision like this, one which involves commitment to be made over several years, it's important to make sure that everybody is involved. If you're used to taking the lead in family decision making, make sure you're not taking the support of other family members for granted. Running a family business can put a lot of strain on personal relationships and you need to make sure your spouse or partner shares your commitment.

Children should also be consulted because it may impact on their plans and hopes for the future, especially if you're going to be busy all the time or if there will potentially be less money available to invest in their education. Try to explain to them what going into business is about and why it's important to you. Be careful not to use overly technical language or give an overly positive account of your plans because you want to persuade people. If you're going to make a success of this as a family, you need genuine consent and support based on an honest understanding of what's likely to be involved.

Handling Objections

As a rule, if your business idea is a good one, you can expect your family to be supportive. They'll be pleased to see you happy and excited by the prospect of positive change. But what if they object? In fact, rather than being a problem, this can be a business opportunity. It can help you to spot flaws in your plans which might otherwise not have come out until much later. When you receive criticism you can re-approach you plans and try to find better ways of putting them into action.

Sometimes criticism is harder to deal with in a positive way. Younger children, sulky teenagers or elderly relatives who are fearful of change may want to dissuade you for reasons which are emotional rather than rational. Try to identify clearly what their reasoning is. Rather than giving up or charging ahead against their will, invite them to make suggestions and try to make them feel included in the planning process, even if they won't have a decision-making role in the business once it's up and running. Ask them how they think they would feel in your position and encourage them to explore their feelings about the future of the family with you. Let them know that, if the business happens, you want it to be for everybody's benefit.

Not every family business successfully survives the initial discussion process, but then, not every family business is based on a sound idea. If you're turned down flat the first time, reconsider and see if you an come up with a better idea. Working together with your family, even at this stage, is essential, because in the end it's your commitment to each other that has the potential to make your business a success.

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