On The Issues: Family

Maintaining Balance in a Family Business

Mindy Milam, L.C.S.W


Balance consists of maintaining equilibrium, a state where all competing influences are acknowledged and are in harmony. I’d like to suggest ways to create balance between work and family in a family-owned business.


Practice Self-Care

Your health is priceless and may be one of the most important assets in your business. Over 70% of illnesses are believed to be affected by stress. Health challenges can adversely affect the bottom line in your business as well as the overall quality of your life. Prioritize learning and practicing stress management techniques, exercising, eating nutritious meals, and having fun/relaxing.


Establish and Maintain Good Lines of Communication

Do not be afraid to confront issues as they arise, even when it is uncomfortable. Learn and practice healthy methods of conflict resolution. Ignoring concerns or conflict will not make them go away. Unresolved anger can eat away at interpersonal relationships, which can affect the unity of everyone as co-workers, and potentially affect productivity and/or customer relations.


Run the Business Like a Business, Not Like a Family Gathering

Clearly define roles and expectations, such as who leads and who follows. Define who makes the decisions, who handles the administrative tasks and who the fiscal owners are. Don’t assume that everyone has the same goals for the business; clearly articulate these as well. Finally, make sure there is a succession plan in place in case someone dies.


Create a Healthy Work Environment

Understand that business decisions affect family relationships and that family relationships will affect the business. Strive to create an environment that is fair and respectful of everyone, where the criteria for salaries and promotions are clear and not rooted in favoritism. Be willing to look outside of the family pool of talents when filling positions. Also be willing to bring in an outside consultant or mediator if family members are stuck and cannot resolve conflict.


Prioritize Spending Time with Your Family That Is Separate from Work Time

Avoid discussing business during this time. Turn off the business phone, email, and your “work brain” at a certain time each day. Instead of trying to multi-task home and business activities, strive to give 100% to each activity you are engaged in. Don’t do work at your child’s softball game. Don’t have a teacher conference on the phone while reviewing a spreadsheet at work. Enjoy dinner with your family without checking your text messages. Practice “being present” in whatever you are doing, whether it is work time, family time, or personal time.

Having a family business run successfully is like having a two-wheeled bicycle. One tire represents the business, and one tire represents the family. If either one is flat, the bicycle will not go where you want it to go. It is important to keep both tires well maintained, and watch for the objects (issues) that can puncture either one. With care, you can go farther than you imagined!

Mindy Milam, L.C.S.W. is a licensed clinical social worker and a certified mind-body medicine practitioner. She maintains a private practice where she offers individual and couple/family counseling, and leads workshops for businesses in stress management and self-care.

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