Don’t Forget the Family in Family Business

Photo of paperwork and cocktail showing work and fun balance

Warmer temperatures are on the horizon. Many families are counting down the days and hours to when the final school bell rings and a well-deserved few-month break ensues. Vacations are on the calendar, pools are nearly ready, and you can almost smell the coconut scent of sunscreen around the house. Summer is knocking at the door, and families are ready. But is your family business?

While families look forward to the relaxation summer brings, family businesses may feel the pressures to keep the business running smoothly while navigating much needed family time. A harmonious balance, however, between family and business is essential to ensure both thrive, and with some thoughtful strategies in place to create an environment where both are valued, any family business owner and their team can enjoy some rest and relaxation while ensuring the business is still poised for success. 

Set clear boundaries. 

The commute to and from work offers some people the decompression time to ensure that they pivot from wearing their business hat to their family one. That’s harder, however, for family business owners, especially since many times the lines are blurred since family and business time intersect. A way to navigate this is to set clear and visible boundaries to keep work and family separate as much as feasibly possible. 

There are several ways to consider setting clear boundaries, and all require the family as a whole to equally agree on them and follow accordingly. Here are some examples to consider. 

  • Determine what is business time and what is family time. Outline it. Talk about it. Agree upon it. Is your vacation a business retreat or a family reconnection opportunity? Does business make it to the evening pool time? Determining what is permitted to be discussed when will help all parties know what is permissible when. 
  • Create office hours this summer so that you can honor sacred family time that is free from any work distractions. While it may not be easy to uphold in the beginning, over time you may come to truly value your office hours, creating better balance for you as a whole. 
  • Discuss as a family if you have technology-free dinners, create a weekly family movie night ritual, or schedule a hike every Sunday. By setting aside planned time together, both the business and the family can plan for it (and look forward to it!). 

Create and embrace flexibility. 

There are many valuable benefits to family businesses, and one that has the power to be utilized during summer months is flexibility. I believe in leveraging flexibility and a willingness to accommodate others on the team throughout the business entirely and over the course of the year as a whole, however in summer months, flexibility will support the team in maintaining a work-life balance that family businesses have the power to offer. 

When the family is prioritized, the business will notice higher levels of team engagement and productivity as well as increased satisfaction and overall collaboration. Here are some suggestions to consider when evaluating ways to offer flexibility this summer.

  •  Flexible office hours can create a culture where the team can adjust their typical schedules to accommodate their family’s needs. Whether that includes a shift in office hours or a compressed work week, as long as responsibilities are accounted for and deadlines met, this flexibility can offer the family breathing room to meet their family needs alongside those at work. 
  • Flexible working environments could allow members of the family business to enjoy summer activities while still fulfilling their work commitments. Remote work could allow team members the needed flexibility to work from home or even at a new location which could assist them in accommodating the additional needs of navigating summer childcare or travel plans. 
  • Shared responsibilities could also support the flexibility that family businesses offer. Could some team members split responsibilities, delegate efforts, and support one another to adjust for family accommodations that are needed? With clear expectations and effective communication, this could be possible. 

Remember the importance of fun!

You’ve heard the phrase: “Don’t live to work. Instead, work to live.” When a business is a part of a family, it’s easy to get wrapped up in its potential, problems, and unique needs at all hours of the day. Intermingling business and family time is a part of the business structure, but don’t let it become the only part of either. Fun should be a chosen thread in the family business tapestry. 

Having fun with one another allows for connections and reconnections to be made. Within the business, fun fosters a culture of inclusiveness, innovation, and connectivity. Within a family, fun is where memories are made. Here are some considerations as to why fun should be a necessary requirement this summer within your family and your business. 

  • Innovation happens when people collaborate. Collaboration happens when people trust one another and enjoy the shared synergy found when they elevate a project together. This is possible where fun is found. If your team has fun together, they will enjoy navigating business projects together too. Use this summer to strengthen collaboration within the family business by creating opportunities to integrate fun within. 
  • Fun supports the value of self-care. If you live to work, burnout is on the horizon, and nothing good happens in a family business when burnout shows up. Self-care is needed for team members to recalibrate, reenergize, and manage stress and workload. Encouraging each member of the family business to embrace fun in their own families will foster a growing business because it’s fostering the growth in each person too. 
  • In a family business, disagreements, conflict, and challenging situations sit heavier, following team members home while having the unfortunate power to impact more than just a business decision… it could impact a family. When fun matters, it creates bonds with one another, serving as relationship builders too. This cohesiveness is imperative to a family business’ success. 

When both are prioritized—a family and a business— both win. This summer, as excitement surmounts around vacation and other anticipated activities, consider prioritizing a productive balance between family enjoyment and family business growth. By setting clear boundaries, creating and embracing flexibility, and never forgetting the value of fun, your family business can strengthen both your family bonds and business efforts this summer.