Unmasking the Ghosts of Family Business

Unmasking the Ghosts of Family Business

Family businesses have their fair share of spooky shadows. Eerie echoes of the past often haunt the present, and communication ghouls can wreak havoc on collaboration if left unchecked. Oftentimes, balancing roles and responsibilities can seem like an intricate dance between tricks and treats. But as with any unwanted ghost, the best way to ward off the fear is by pulling off the sheet and exposing the situation for what it is. Only then can positive change happen. 

In the spirit of Halloween, I’d like to share a brew of ideas that can help family businesses move past any skeletons in their closets.

Break Haunted Habits

Too often, family businesses find themselves haunted by unproductive patterns. With multi-generation engagement, many will continue to do what has always been done because it’s always worked (even though it may not be working now). This distrust or unwillingness to move beyond the past can haunt not only your inner-business relationships, but your relationships with customers, with business partners, and all parties involved in your business’s day to day dealings. Innovation may be met with trepidation and the shifting of roles and responsibilities paired with the fast pace of the current consumer demands are likely to overwhelm anyone, family businesses included. 

But these unhealthy and unproductive habits create patterns leading to resistance to change, favoritism, an over-reliance on tradition, and a lack of growth. While meant for good, some habits are in need of breaking. To break free from the haunting habits, try these approaches: 

  • Embrace Change: Instead of running from change, embrace it. Acknowledge that change is necessary for growth and long-term success. Encourage your team to embrace new ideas, adapt to evolving market trends, and try a new approach from time to time. You may be pleasantly surprised by the outcome.
  • Offer Transparency: Avoid the favoritism trap by implementing clear and transparent policies for decision-making efforts. Ensure that everyone feels valued and heard, and build in systems to ensure each member of the family has a deep awareness of the efforts taking place. This will not only allow everyone to feel ownership of decisions, but valued at the same time.
  • Blend Tradition with Innovation: Honor the family’s legacy while also exploring innovative strategies at the same time. Tradition and innovation can co-exist. When you merge the best of tradition with modern practices, you remain competitive, meet your customer’s needs, and pay tribute to your family business’ legacy.

Overcome Cursed Communication

Communication will forever be the most pivotal in any relationship, family business relationships included. Miscommunication, lack of clarity and unresolved conflicts can turn anything into a nightmare. It’s essential to prioritize improving communication, and some of my favorite ways to prioritize communication include: 

  • Hold Regular Family Meetings: Establish regular family meetings to discuss business matters openly. Create a safe space for everyone to voice concerns, share ideas and resolve conflicts. If it’s a part of the regularly scheduled workflow, then communication doesn’t just resolve, but it becomes a critical part of business.
  • Define Roles and Responsibilities: Like with transparency, the use of defined roles will help to keep everyone on track and help avoid miscommunications about responsibilities. When everyone is aware of the roles and what is expected in that role, it provides a stable foundation to be built on. No haunted graveyards here! 

Family businesses are not immune to their own set of ghosts and goblins that can haunt their progress. Breaking free from unproductive habits and communication challenges are crucial steps to ensure the longevity and success of family enterprises. As you navigate the intricate maze of family business dynamics, remember that with the right strategies, you can turn those haunted habits into valuable lessons, banish communication curses, and achieve a harmonious trick-or-treat balance that leads to prosperous collaboration and growth.

There are a myriad of avenues and suggestions to help bring balance back into your business beyond those listed. What are some ways that you have found help you to maintain open, positive communications?