Working with family members is quite common in Asia especially in small businesses and startups. In fact I’ve seen companies bend or even modify policies to let family members work together. I’d like to explore this – how to have a successful family business for both the individuals and company. We’ll first take a look at it from a personal angle and follow up with the business perspective in another post

‘Cushioning’ Your Feelings About People

It’s very rare to like someone completely, especially when they’re family because it’s easier to criticize people you’re not related to. Try to remember the last time you honestly told a family member how you felt about them. Chances are you’d have a hard time remember such a scenario.

If you’re working for a family business you have to be honest about your feelings or success will be hard to find. Of course battles must be chosen carefully. For example, it would probably be best to ignore the annoying way a family member chews their food but address issues they have with punctuality.

Leaving Work at Work and Home at Home

If you’re working with someone you live with it becomes extremely difficult to respect work/home boundaries. Whether it’s discussing work during dinner time or trying to curb leftover bitterness during a meeting after a squall at home, work and home boundaries blur easily.

Two steps to help you enforce boundaries with family colleagues are:

  1. Make a pact to not discuss work at home – NO MATTER WHAT. There are no exceptions.
  2. If you’ve had a fight at home, do an icebreaker activity with just the involved family members at work in the morning. Do something simple such as Back to Back Drawing or a game of 20 questions.

Establishing Credibility

Being the relative of any major person in a company pretty much discredits you because people automatically assume you’ve reached your position because of relationships rather than hard work. The assumed preferential treatment usually overshadows every accomplishment achieved. And considering many people hire their successors from directly within the family this can become a major issue when it’s time to hand over the reigns.

Unfortunately, there are really no hardcore solutions other than:

  • Continuously proving yourself
  • Leading by example

Once people start respecting you as a leader everything else will fall into place.

The incessant gossiping most people have to face in a family business is really hard to break from but it’s possible. There are successful family businesses that you could use as motivation. Dantata Foods, a Nigerian trading company was started in 1910 and successfully continues through the grandson of the founder. They made over $300 million in revenues annually. Then you have Flickr, started in 2004 with a husband and wife team. Yahoo bought their company for $35 million in 2008.

Whether you’re working with relatives in a company or a family business, success is definitely possible. Complicated, but possible. Have you worked in a family run business? If you’d like to receive more Leadership and HR tips related to the region, make sure to subscribe to the blog for regular updates!