Tips to ensure the smooth operation of a family-run setting

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Whilst running a family business can be wonderful and give your setting a very homely feel, it can also put immense pressure on your personal relationships.  The last thing you want to lose is the support of relatives over a petty work-related quarrel. We’ve come up with some tips for those in business with family or close friends, to keep every part of your work and personal life a success!

1. At work, everyone is a colleague

It’s essential that any family member is viewed by you and other members of staff as a colleague first. Showing leniency or favouritism towards a relative will upset others and ultimately damage your business. Equally, coming down too hard on that family member could rock your relationship with them. Family should always play by the same rules as all the other members of staff, and not expect to get special treatment from you.

2. Keep business talk at work

To keep stress levels low and relationships happy, it’s important to set boundaries. An easy way to do this is to confine any talk about the setting to office hours and put a ban on it when you’re together at home. That way, your house will always be a place you can unwind and relax. What’s more, you won’t bore everyone else around you who’s not directly involved in running the business!

3. Don’t employ people just because they’re family

It can be so hard to turn family members away, but if they don’t have a skill you need, don’t feel obliged to give them a job – you’re a business, not a charity! Employ relatives that you think can add real value to your setting. Some will bring new ideas, perspectives or skills, whereas others will just wind you up! If you’re really unsure whether to employ a family member, nip it in the bud when they ask – sacking family members rarely ends well.

4. Appoint a mediator for business discussions

This doesn’t have to be a professional mediator, but keep someone at hand to be the voice of reason, especially if personal issues start to creep into important conversations about work. Make sure your mediator isn’t another family member or someone with personal ties to your family, either. This same person could chair any business meetings to ensure discussions are fair and lead to the best decision for the setting, rather than being marred by the emotional influence of family.

5. Formalise everything

Yes, they’re family and you love them, but they’re only human, like everyone else. Putting contracts in place, writing proper job descriptions and designating  specific job roles from day 1 will help to establish work boundaries and stop family hierarchy affecting the proper running of the setting. We’ve all fought with siblings and spouses, so don’t presume working with them will be any different!

6. Stick to the facts

Agree from the outset that any disagreement you take up with a family member at work will be based purely on facts and leads to a constructive outcome. Letting emotion creep into a work discussion is a downhill spiral. Instead of criticising a fellow family member with comments like:  “I don’t think you handled that well”, try something like, “that decision cost us £1000. Let’s come up with a way to make sure we don’t make that mistake again.”

7. Address your similarities

As a family, it’s likely you’ve all had a very similar upbringing (which can help you see eye-to-eye) but don’t forget that you’re also likely to have very different opinions and world views, too. It will help to have other perspectives about the business from outside the family, so embrace views from other members of staff and always consider other colleagues in your decisions.


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One thought on “Tips to ensure the smooth operation of a family-run setting

  • September 16, 2015 at 10:53 am
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    My son and I have worked together very successfully for ten years, but he is now thinking he can run the place better than me which is irritating. But on the whole it has been a very successful arrangement, but it does need ground rules to be stuck too.

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