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Family and Business, should they mix? #AskKirubi

The day you stop learning, you rot.


There is an old saying that goes, ‘business and family do not mix well.’ Now in as much as I agree with that statement, I also acknowledge that there are some successful family owned/run businesses especially with the Asian communities.

One has to be very careful and tactical when incorporating family into the business especially if it is not merit based. You are all different and do not have the same level of understanding. I say this because your expectations vis a vis their delivery are two different things. You have to constantly endeavor to make sure they catch up with your thinking and overall vision of the business. While this may be a tasking role some people are actually patient enough to go through with this.

As a business owner you need to make it clear and set the standard for family members to follow. Keep them out of the business and never allow family matters to be brought to the business. Some Partners go to the extent of paying a family member some allowance in order for them to stay out of the business. However, if you absolutely must continue working with a relative, never treat them any different from your other employees. Pay them according to their merit and expect the same level of performance. They must be accountable to their roles and responsibilities.

It is very unfortunate the problems that are rife in most family businesses are not just about profits and losses. They are about all the raw emotions, resentments and betrays between husbands, wives, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters and the in-laws. Now you have a business to run, so rather than deal with such issues later on, it is wise to set the standard right from the beginning. Putting a relative in a role that they are not suited for will lead to failure and bring strife with other employees.

Another reason I am not party to having family in business is that there are always expectations which you as a business owner/manager need to manage. Many family members feel that they are entitled to ‘family discounts’ or ‘freebies’. This is wrong. Let them pay like any other customer if at all they are serious about supporting you and your business. No one is entitled to anything without input.

Finally, it is important that there be checks and balances enforced by the top management. If you employ family members then make sure you show leadership by defining a clear and efficient decision making process. Nail down rules and responsibilities for each employee including top management to follow. Find ways to mesh complementary skills and incorporate their strengths into the business. In the event that an issue cannot be solved then go to the extent of bringing an outsider to assist in resolving the issue. Now, if you are working in a family business then it is only fair that you expect the same.

I believe if all this is developed then they will learn to respect you and the business. As a matter of fact you may find them rising to other roles, being more dedicated and driving the vision of the business. That is the role of a leader…inspiring others.

Blood is thicker than water but blood and business do not mix. If it’s time for business then let’s do business. We can discuss family matters at home or during the weekend. If not then all we will have are failed businesses and families fighting over the minimal resources left.

Be a family member but most importantly, be their business leader.

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