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Keeping it in the Family

Here in the UK we’re a nation of business owners.  At the beginning of last year there were a record number of private sector businesses, a massive 5.5 million of them, to be exact and that’s 2 million more than there were at the beginning of 2000.   You may be surprised to learn that small businesses account for 99% of these private sector businesses and 99.9% of those were small or medium sized enterprises (SMEs).  These SMEs have a combined annual turnover of £1.8 trillion which is 47% of all private sector turnover here in Britain.  These figures clearly demonstrate that the economy here in the UK depends heavily on SMEs, despite the fact that 76% of these businesses have no employees and are owner-operated.  Two thirds of UK businesses are family owned and Britain’s family businesses come in all sizes and sectors and span all regions across the country. 

Running a small business can be a very rewarding and satisfying experience – you’re in control of your own life and destiny, an attractive option for so many of us.  However, if you’re a family business owner, you’re sure to be aware that there are some pitfalls and it can be quite challenging to keep family issues and business separate.  At home, when you’re in family mode, it’s all about helping and caring for each other as family members but when it comes to business, it’s all about getting the job done and staying in business.  If you’re running a family business, here are some tips you can use to keep things running smoothly both at home and at work:

·        Adopt a rule that you don’t discuss family issues at work or discuss work issues at home – not always easy, but it is doable.

·        Let go of any stereotypes – while we all have our own place in the family hierarchy, this doesn’t necessarily apply in the workplace.  For instance, the youngest member of the family may possess great leadership skills – it would be a real shame to ignore these as they can benefit the business dramatically.

·        Relationship experts often advise couples to lead separate work lives and not work together.  However, running a business as a couple often results in a great relationship and a great business – it all depends on how you get on as a couple and how you work together as colleagues.  There are so many successful businesses operated by husband and wife teams.

·        When it comes to family members, it’s vital to set clear job expectations, to communicate in a professional manner in the workplace and to focus on the well-being of the business.  It may be tempting to let issues slide rather than confront (or even fire) a family member who is dragging the business down.  Remember, your business represents your livelihood and it’s better to temporarily fall out with a family member than ruin your business which could result in debt, bankruptcy and the closing of your business.

A healthy business is one that stays in business, so setting clear boundaries is essential for success when it comes to running a small, family-owned business.