The notion of a family run business seems to be an old fashioned thing in these modern times. I can understand why. So many other things pulling each family member away in other directions, it’s hard to focus that energy in to one thing that the whole family can be passionate about. But after working in my own family business for a decade now, I can honestly say they are a great thing, if not a little testing at times! These are some of my realities of working in a family run business.

Passion for the job

The struggle for many family businesses is to get the whole family to have the same common passion for the business. Quite often you see certain family members in a family business who really don’t want to be there, or are just there because it’s a job and it pays the bills. But speak to any successful family company and it will be clear to see that every family member has a massive passion for their company and hard work.

And this is a feature of good family businesses that some normal businesses sometimes don’t have. That passion. The desire to go the extra mile every single day. And that passion is driven by two factors. The first being that when you boil it down, the company is the whole family’s income source, so cannot afford to let it fail! Second, the pride in building and developing something of your own and seeing your hard work pay off. I can tell you that there is nothing better than looking at something you have built yourself, knowing you did it your way, and it worked.

Luckily I can say that every member of the family at our place has the same passion to be there. We’re all there because we want to be, not because we have to be. We all want to help build the best business. Sell the best products. Create the most stunning installations. This is a major reason why our business works.

High tensions

Because we all have that passion for our work, tensions can sometimes be high in the office. I know in ours there have been times where there have been some absolutely raging arguments! Luckily they have been very few and far between, probably countable on two hands over the ten years I’ve worked there. The trick is to make sure that you don’t take those arguments too personally. Business isn’t family life. Once those doors are locked and we all head home, albeit to separate homes now, work is left at work.

The reality is that whilst most well run family businesses rarely have internal arguments, they do happen from time to time. And there is nothing you can do about that. It’s how you deal with them that counts. Being level headed about it and not flying off the handle yourself if you’re on the receiving end of an arse whooping is key.

I tell you what though, when the business is brisk and the atmosphere is good, there is a real addictive buzz in the office!

Treat your staff like family

You might have the luxury of a family run business, but your staff don’t. You don’t want to feel like they’re on the outside of the bubble, so treat them like you would any other member of your family. Well, at least in the workplace anyway!

At our place we have had some of the same staff members for over 17 years! They’re as good as family to us, surrogate sisters to me and my brother almost! That’s how we see everyone at our place, like extended family members, all working together as a team to do the best we can as a unit. We all get on well. There is plenty of banter, jokes and general good spirit. It makes for what we all hope is a nice place to work.

Internal competition

When it comes to sales, there is myself, my brother and my Dad. We’re not a big company in terms of staff numbers by any means. But there is plenty of competition!

We’re always trying to make sure we sneak a win by the end of the week for bragging rights, and the monthly figures are even more competitive! But it’s great for business and keeps us all on our toes. I think every family business needs this internal competition to keep things progressing forward and to ensure that no one coasts. There is nothing worse in business than standing still.

Increased stress

If anyone has ever told you that owning and running a family business is easy is lying to you. It is not. As I eluded to earlier in the post, there come severe financial burdens when you own and run a family company.

It’s not just your own job you have to worry about but your whole family’s careers. There’s no plan B when it all goes wrong, so you have to make the best of plan A. It isn’t always easy, especially during recessions. I remember some very tough and sobering times during the worst of the recession at our place. But we came through it, stronger I like to believe, and having learned a lot about ourselves and the business.

But stress is negative to all of this. If you own your family company you are responsible for absolutely everything, and that is something that can take it’s toll. You have to remember to look after yourself to make sure you’re fit and healthy.

Is it worth it?

Despite all the financial strains, the stress, the arguments, the day-to-day comings and goings, it really is all worth it. Owning and running a successful business with your family at the helm is very rewarding. We often speak about not being able to work for someone after doing this. We all know how it feels to run things our own way, be our own bosses, be responsible for ourselves.

Of course not every family business works out positively. Which is a shame because I think family businesses often bring a different dynamic to the business environment in general. A more personal service which I think customers appreciate a bit more.

Do you work in a family business? Has it been a good experience for you or a complete nightmare? All comments welcome in the section below.

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