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Edition 24 – The Language Of Family Business

One of the best things about family business is employing family.

One of the worst things about family business is employing family.


Having worked with family businesses for more than 25 years, I’ve had the privilege of engaging with some amazing people. Smart, funny, innovative.

Some of those discussions take place inside the business. At the office desk or the boardroom table.

Some of them take place in the family home. At the dining table or in the lounge room.

One of the great joys of working with family business is that I become immersed in not just the business, but also the family. For the most part, I engage with both the husbands and the wives inside family businesses.

To be truly successful both in family business and in maintaining a healthy relationship with your spouse, this is what I believe works the best:

  1. There are times to talk as employer-employee and there are times to talk as spouses.
  2. Be respectful of each other when you are around others in your business. The old adage “don’t fight in front of the children” also applies in business.
  3. Have a set cut off time for stopping the talk about business. For my wife and me it is after dinner.
  4. If you are so one dimensional that most of your discussions in your relationship are about business, your relationship is lopsided. That can only spell trouble.
  5. Often the best ideas for business pop into your head when you are not talking about business.
  6. Have other interests that engage you with your spouse. Travel, the children, sport, salsa dancing! Whatever it is, make your relationship interesting by engaging with each other beyond the business.
  7. Never, ever talk about business when you are sitting up in bed late at night, warm beverage at the ready, book in hand and lamp on. It’s a great way to engage in an argument right when you’re supposed to be winding down.

What many people fail to recognise is that the business is the foundation for the financial, lifestyle and personal betterment of the family and everyone in the family.

Family business owners, particularly men, can become engrossed in the thrill of being in business. When they do that, they lose sight of why they went into business in the first place.

By watching what we say and how we say it to each other in family business, we maintain a level of respect for each other that elevates the importance of that relationship to where it should be.

Why would we talk to our spouse in a worse tone, or with indifference, if we wouldn’t speak that way to our best employee, our best customer, our best supplier or indeed anyone else?

The old saying is that familiarity breeds contempt.

I’d argue that familiarity should breed respect. Respect engenders strength in the relationship, which supports the business and the family.

This Week’s Tip

Thank your spouse when you are in the business, especially for the little things they do for you. They have your back. Remember that!