Honest conversations – the heart of the family

We have all heard that honesty is the best policy, and we also know that this is often far easier said than done. However, honesty is a critical component of a positive culture within a family business. In order to maintain healthy relationships and achieve success, we encourage open, honest conversations.

Underlying tensions

Families are complex and as such, family businesses can be even more complex as they rely on family members to succeed. Interactions between individuals sometimes have underlying tension or conflict that stem from their long personal history. Sibling rivalries, generational differences or power struggles can be simmering beneath the surface just waiting to emerge when a small issue arises within the business.

“You were always allowed to do …”

“I never had the chance to …”

“Why won’t you let me …”

These types of feelings can be held onto from younger years and depending on the way discussions are approached, they can have a detrimental impact on the business.

Unlike a regular business, family businesses have ingrained bonds between members. In a non-family business, staff are employed to do a job and are expected to perform their role accordingly. Honesty is certainly an important factor, but team professionalism lends itself to being able to tackle difficult situations in an objective manner.

Within a family business, when presented with a challenging situation, family members sometimes drop their professional approach and revert to the free for all, squabbling arguments of their youth. Heightened emotions can lead to harsh words being said. Which of course, doesn’t solve the problem at hand.

This is where honesty is required to move forward from the arguments of the past and find a way to achieve a positive result for the business. Speak from your heart, but remove the emotion. Maintain professional boundaries even if the person you are talking to is a close relative.

Encouraging truth

Approaching a difficult situation within a family business can be challenging. For instance, if the younger brother is the managing director and needs to discuss the sales performance of their older sibling, rivalry from their childhood must be set aside to allow the conversation to focus solely on the business.

It is important to make a clear point that the discussion only relates to the bottom line … the profitability of the company … the dollars in the bank. The sibling might bring with them some gripes from their past, but by maintaining fair, honest commentary around the topic at hand, these gripes can be left out of the conversation.

The grievances they feel could then be addressed in a separate, non-business-related conversation, perhaps with the assistance of a third party to mediate. Family Business Central can assist with these sessions as we believe that mediation is crucial to resolving relationship issues that could impact the business.

It could also be helpful to create a Family Charter. Having a clearly defined document outlining the structure of the business, the way in which decisions are made and a set of transparent ground rules and expectations, allows everyone to have an unobstructed vision of the business. This creates the perfect blueprint for honest, open communication.

If you would like to find out more about the services we offer at Family Business Central, please contact us today.