Many of my clients come to me due to problems that arise from family members working together in farming or businesses. This is something I am able to relate to because I have three kids, all of whom have been involved with my private practice over time.
These are some areas that could cause concern.
1. Definition of leadership
There can be some competition for who will be the boss, especially if there are siblings involved. One parent might wish to retire or semi-retire after starting the business. It doesn’t matter if the next generation has the skills and the desire to carry on the company. It is unlikely that it will succeed. This is especially true if they don’t work together. Your role is to guide and mentor the people involved so that they can perform all tasks with mutual respect and efficiency.
2. Making changes
I am stubborn about trying new methods because I have worked so hard building my business. Many owners have had to deal with inefficiencies or failures and feel they have learned the best ways to grow and sustain their business. Sometimes, what we do works well, but there are always ways to improve it! Sometimes we can be naive or out of touch. My two sons convinced me to accept credit cards and set up an online booking. These were offered to me for a month, and I was amazed at the positive response from my clients. It also saved me time and money for my staff. They were persistent, thank you very much. We must be careful but open to new ideas.
3. Set boundaries
When do I become the “boss” and the mother? This is a difficult thing to do in farming or business operations, especially when there are extended families involved. For example, living on a farm is different from working a 9-5 job that requires you to punch a clock. All generations need to find a balance between work and play. Clear communication is essential when it comes down to defining and managing boundaries.
4. Resentments can be hard to let go of.
In any business, it is always easier for a person to come from the “outside”. The resume should highlight the achievements of the candidate and not any negative past or traits. It is easier to communicate with, confront, and terminate an “outsider” when you are hiring them. You cannot hide problems when you work with family members. Instead, engage them and try to find a solution or agree to disagree. Then, the family members must be able to “let go” and work through the issues. This is not always easy. A professional mediator or therapist can help.
It’s sad that grandparents and parents put their life into their children’s businesses only to discover that their next generation isn’t interested in them or able enough to continue their work.
It is not possible to force others to follow your path or dictate their dreams. It is also not possible to pass the torch to others and then have them take it back again and criticize the way they do it.
Positive family relationships are those that have clear communication, boundaries and procedures. They are open to new ideas and have developed maturity and respect in their relationships.