It doesn’t matter whether you own a Mom-and-Pop shop, a family farm or ranch, a Fortune 500 company or anything in between...When you have a family business, you often need a reality check to keep your business what it it—a business.
I obviously work with family members every day. I often catch myself using a nickname, making a face when I disapprove of something, or simply reacting like a sister or wife rather than a professional colleague. The thing is that there can be unhealthy consequences to all of this innocent behavior. What position does it put non-family member in? Have I demoted a family member in their eyes? Do they see a unified front? Do they feel secure? And to think, this is only one thing done differently in a family business.
We spend a lot of time helping family-owned businesses save taxes and put an exit plan in place—whether it is expected and planned such as retirement or transferring a business from one generation to another, or unexpected due to a death or disability. Often where we get stuck is the overlap of family and business. Family is family, and business is business.
Former President Trump gave a speech in Montana about estate taxes and family-owned businesses. He said they did what they did so that you can pass your business to your kids without estate taxes...but you shouldn’t pass it to them if they don’t deserve it…some don’t deserve it…sometimes it is the employees or you just need to sell it. The point is that owners of a family-owned business often try to fit a square peg (their family members) in a round hole. It just doesn’t work and it never will. Regardless of your political viewpoints, it’s important to remember that business is business.
On the flip side, in all the years we have been working with family businesses, we have never seen a son who is exactly like his father. There is always something the father did that the son can’t or wouldn’t be willing to do – and vice versa. This obviously leaves Dad with doubt in his mind as he tries to plan ahead…but it doesn’t mean do nothing.
God made each and every one of us different. In our business, we say it took two kids and one son-n-law to make one of Dad. Your perspective changes when you think about business as business.
There’s an incredible book I would advise to any family member of a family business. Business is Business was written by Kathy Kolbe and her daughter, Amy Bruske. They not only have been successful at running a family-owned business for more than thirty years, but have coached many others through the experiences in this book. This book of dos and don’ts is a mirror into your business and your family.
Dad has always said, Progress starts by telling the truth…and you have to tell yourself the truth before anyone else. Do your business a favor, and do your family a favor—make business just business and family just family.