Whether you started out together, or brought them in along the way, the biggest complaint I hear from partners, and other family members in business, is overwhelmingly around commitment. When one loses faith or a lack of effort becomes apparent, the disappointment quickly turns to a mix of anxiety and anger. Among the most critical ingredients for a successful partnership, is making the time, in advance, to fully outline expectations, duties and responsibilities.
Avoid Problems – make a plan before entertaining the “prospect”
Fit the needs to the right person, not the other way around. Seeking a business partner, or bringing a family member into the company should be well-defined not based on convenience, financial injection or other immediate need. Equally as emotional as a marriage, this is someone (if you are not already “connected”) you will probably be tied to for many years. Proactive due diligence is a priority in order to mitigate problems and solidify expectations. Make informed choices based upon ability not blood lines or friendships.
If you don’t have the time or objectivity, don’t manage the process yourself. Among a host of other issues, the current leader must determine what they want to keep doing, and what should be put into the new executive’s hands.
Here are several primary considerations for avoiding partner and family-in-business challenges. Some businesses that have job descriptions for their employees don’t have one for the boss. As the CEO, start by making a list of all the activities you perform throughout the week. These primary categories might include: project management, business development, problem solving, strategic planning, finance and insurance, human resources, and general management.
Once this list is complete, next to each entry indicate whether the leader will retain that responsibility, or delegate it. Although it’s likely you are very good at most of what it takes to run your company, only keep the duties you are truly best at, along with those the primary shareholder must retain. Next, include any remaining requirements and create job descriptions for you and the new executive. Now it’s time to compare the new job description to the individual(s) you are considering for this position.
Using the “keep and delegate” list and the new position description, determine if the people now being considered can make the, “all in” commitment like you have. If so, explore their potential, their skills, and the desire, on both sides, to create the synergy and support you expect.
Before taking the next step, check if other more suitable candidates might be available. Even if you are certain of your selection, knowing who else is available and at what price will broaden your perspective and bring to light other duties or skill requirements for the role.
Although partnerships can be very close, family-in-business is an even more delicate undertaking. The real lesson is making all the contingency rules in the beginning. If it ever stops feeling good, which it does more times than it doesn’t, you’ll have a quantifiable performance review tool for making informed decisions.
Remember, when family-in-business is a factor, you may be able to reverse the business side of the undertaking, however the impact on relationships can last well beyond the separation.