Combining the dinner table with the conference room

A few simple tips for families that work together…

Family Business Tips

I assume family members involved in business together can relate to this picture. Blending two very different experiences into one can be complicated and lines become blurred. On the one hand, family hopefully symbolizes a place of love and security. You accept your family members as they are and find the silver linings to enhance those relationships.

On the other side of the table is the conference room (business). While business does not have to be harsh or “war”, what translates well in family relationships may not translate into what the business needs and requires.

If you work with family and extended family, it is natural to spend time together off business hours in a family atmosphere. Kids birthdays, holidays, Sunday dinners and all those events happen sporadically throughout the year. It can be very difficult to shut off the business-oriented topics. Here are a few of my observations on how to make the most out of working with family members when you are in business mode.

1. Make sure the business meeting has structure (Yes, even with family)

The downside of talking business at a family event on the weekends is that there is no meeting pulse. Two siblings and a cousin drinking some Tito’s and club on a Saturday on the deck may not bring out the best business outcome or decision. As you know, many business decisions have a ripple effect and one bad decision usually leads to three other less than favorable ripple effects, especially when dealing with the staffing side of the business. It is best to have a couple cocktails and talk about light hearted and fun topics because the lack of meeting formality and focused structure can lead to less than favorable outcomes.

We use EOS (Entrepreneurial Organization System) for meeting structure and whenever we skip the process, we rarely get the results we want and communication can break down.

2. Hire a moderator/facilitator (when appropriate for monthly, quarterly or annual meetings)

The most productive and healthy meetings within a family have moderators or facilitators. Family members know each so well that it is hard to hear them at times. When a facilitator or moderator is involved, they tend to slow down the meetings and make sure everyone hears each other out. The downside of working with siblings or cousins or parents is you already know their general perspective or opinions and may not hear them when a gem of an idea comes to light. Additionally, the moderator can make sure things stay above line and healthy when tensions are high, which definitely happens in business.

3. When it is family time… enjoy your family

It is tempting to use those 3 hours together on the weekend to make business progress but naturally you are ignoring or not being present with the other folks at the party. I am sure there are other people at the family event you are attending (kids, nieces, nephews, cousins, friends, etc) so be present and enjoy other people’s company. Odds are your family needs a break from continuous business conversation that won’t get solved at that moment anyways.

In the book Atomic Habits, the author wrote “When you’re in motion, you’re planning and strategizing and learning. Those are all good things, but they don’t produce a result. Action, on the other hand, is the type of behavior that will deliver an outcome.

Talking about the business may feel good because it feels like you are moving forward, but in essence without action, it is just talk. I’ve learned that when you talk to your family about business it feels like progress is being made but it’s mostly just “motion” not “action” to perform the result required.

Combining the dinner table with the conference room table is not easy and not many people can relate to it. The 3 takeaways above have helped us as a family run operation and helped make the lines less blurry.

Vincent Finaldi