; Ensure roles and responsibilities
are clearly defined by putting job
descriptions in writing.
; Match individuals’ abilities,
skills and interests to their role in the
; Keep emotionally charged family
matters out of the workplace and stay
professional on the clock.
; Treat family and non-family
employees with the same fairness,
consideration and respect.
; Make the decision that is best
for the business, even if someone’s
feelings get hurt.—CM
Tips for a balanced
When colleagues are family
Avoiding common pitfalls to family business success
The Johnson and Copley families form the business
home at 7 p.m., usually the last thing you
want to do is talk about work,” says Hoiberg.
“There’s never an off switch unless you’re
intentional about creating it.”
Costco members and spouses David John-
son and Anna Copley of Kent, Washington,
PickleballCentral.com eight years
ago, know the difficulties of shutting down
work at the dinner table. “Working with a
spouse, you’re with them all the awake hours of
the day, so you don’t have the break that a typi-
cal family has,” says Johnson. If there are din-
ner-table tensions, the spouses agree to talk
about the issue at work the next day.
Even co-worker relatives
who don’t live together must
stay aware of pitfalls, including
a lack of clearly defined roles
“A lot of times, in a family
business, they don’t have those
roles and responsibilities laid
out cleanly. People just pick up
and do what needs to be done,
so things fall through the
cracks,” Hoiberg says.
Jobs and responsibilities
should be based on an individual’s strengths, Hoiberg
explains. That means that
detail-oriented people should
manage finances, while someone who loves customer interaction, not manufacturing logistics, should be in sales. In the
end, occasionally it may make more sense to
hire a non-relative who can do a job well.
At the same time, make sure to treat non-family workers the same as family members—by offering equal advancement
opportunities and pay, for example—or
resentment could take root.
Generational differences may kick up
some dust, too. Baby boomers who have spent
small business Smith Family Bakery
decades building a business may be reluctant
to update daily operations when their adult
children begin taking on leadership roles.
“The millennial generation looks at things
differently, and when Junior comes up, the
parents have a hard time transitioning the
business because they’re not sure that Junior
will run the business in the same way that they
did,” Hoiberg says. That’s true: The younger
generation will likely have modern ideas and
current technology solutions.
“But that’s also what’s going to allow the
business to grow and succeed,” says Hoiberg,
“because business is different today than it was
even five years ago.”
It takes finesse to find balance between
making employee-relatives feel heard and
running a professional shop. Garth Watrous is
a Costco member who co-owns Head’n Home
CONTINUED ON PAGE 24
By Carrie Madren
EMPLOYEE DYNAMICS ALWAYS present
challenges, but when workers are also siblings, spouses, children or parents, the daily
grind can become even more complicated.
“It can get really sticky at times,” says Jeff
Shemia, Costco member and president of
home health-care company Girling Health
Care of New York.
At best, families get to enjoy collaborating
as they earn their living. In the worst case,
“family members can have a sense of entitlement—they may feel like they can’t get fired, so
to speak,” explains Shemia, who works alongside his wife, two brothers and in-laws.
But by recognizing potential pitfalls and
taking steps to avoid conflicts, family businesses can enjoy the unique advantages of
time together on the clock.
Navigating rough waters
A lack of boundaries between home and
workplace can create tension, explains Janna
Hoiberg, Costco member, family business
coach and author of The Family Business (see
“Resources” on page 24). “When you come
© MASCHA TACE / SHUTTERSTOCK