By Kirsty Prankerd, Managing Director of family-owned company Write from The Heart.
Whether you’re starting a family-business from scratch or just looking to become an even better manager for your loved ones, knowing how to lead your business is vital. In this article Kirsty Prankerd from the family-owned bespoke gift retailer Write From The Heart gives us her top tips for leading businesses run by families.
Whether you’re running a family-owned bakery or bookshop, having the right set of leadership skills is vital for both your team and your business. While it’s important for any leader to possess the right skillset, leaders of family-owned businesses face a unique set of challenges. As well as making sure the company is running smoothly, you also need to make sure you’re treating loved ones with respect and kindness, without blurring professional boundaries.
While this can be difficult, there are ways to navigate these challenges. If you use the following leadership skills, you will be able to run a successful family business with the help of your relatives.
Praising employees is important in any business. But in family-owned businesses you may find that you subconsciously don’t praise family members as much as you might a non-family member, as you take it as a given that your loved ones know you appreciate them. Try to praise your employees for their good work regularly. But avoid overdoing it: make sure to give good feedback when their work warrants praise, as you don’t want to give your employees the impression that their work is perfect if it actually requires improvement.
You may also want to give your employees rewards for their hard work. For small successes, a voucher or a new personalised mug is ideal. And for larger achievements, a meal out or an accessory for the home, like a personalised clock or a photograph, are the perfect gifts to show your family members how much you love them and value their work.
Disciplining employees is never enjoyable, but this is especially the case in family-run businesses. However, doing so is vital if you want your company to succeed and your employee to improve. So to make the process as pain-free as possible, be as sensitive as you can.
Try to avoid disciplining in anger. If there has been a big mistake which has left you feeling irritated, wait until you’ve calmed down to approach your employee. When you are ready to discuss the incident with them, make sure you’re extremely clear about what the issue is and why it’s bad for the business. And to end it on a positive note, explain the steps they can take to fix the mistake and avoid further incidents.
While you may think that it’s easier to be open and honest with family members in the workplace, this isn’t always the case. In fact, it may be even more difficult! Loved ones don’t want to let each other down or criticise each other, so they may keep concerns to themselves. This isn’t just bad for workplace morale, but it can be bad for the business too.
In order to encourage employees to be more open, lead by example. Admit to your own mistakes to show that it is okay for employees to do the same. And if your family members don’t enjoy giving you feedback, have an anonymous suggestion box so they can feel comfortable in making requests or passing comments.
Any business owner knows that running a company is a lot of work. And as much as the owners would like to do it all by themselves, it’s important to get some employees to help out. You may be wary of doing this as you don’t want to feel like a burden to your family. But by sharing your tasks you will help both your business and your employees grow and improve.
When it comes to delegating tasks, make sure that you give the right jobs to the right employees. For example if you’re looking for someone to handle clients, choose a confident person with great people skills. And remember that honesty is vital, so encourage everyone within the business to let you know if any extra responsibilities are becoming too much.
Encouraging work-life balance
Many of us struggle with work-life balance, but this can be even more tricky to handle when working for a family-owned company. The whole company will want to put their all in so they don’t let one another down. But if you don’t have the right balance, this can actually do the business more harm than good.
To encourage work-life balance in your family-run business, make sure that all overtime is paid and that staff leave on time whenever possible. You should also avoid talking about the business outside of work with one another to give yourselves boundaries between professional and home life. And remember to lead by example and give yourself a break too — you deserve it!
Running a family-owned business comes with many joys, and plenty of challenges too. If you use these leadership skills, you should be able to create a successful business for you and the family to be proud of.