Ever dreamed about running a family business? Maybe you already do. Running a business together as a family can be a study in extremes. This article in the Columbia (Missouri) Business Times paints a glowing picture, profiling three happy family businesses. One mom reflects that “The joy and the advantages of [working with family] are just magnificent.”

But is it all roses and harmony when working with family?

Dire Warnings Abound

A search on the Entrepreneur.com website made me chuckle. The headlines lean much more toward dire warning than glowing testimonial:

10 Tips for Working with Family

That being said, let’s look on the bright side. In the spirit of constructive advice, here are the highlights summarized from their article 10 Tips for Working With Family Members.

When conflict arises:

  1. Approach the other person and acknowledge that the current relationship isn’t working optimally, that something is either “too right” or “too wrong,” too positive or too negative.
  2. Discuss the impact your behaviors or attitudes are having on other employees and the company as a whole.
  3. Agree to meet together or with an experienced, neutral, fearless and objective HR manager or external consultant.
  4. Agree that you’re going to work together to improve and maximize the current relationship for your own sake as well as the sake of the organization.
  5. Agree that you want to work toward making the working atmosphere more professional and less personal. You have to agree not to allow your personal feelings, either positive or negative, to enter into the office place.
  6. Clarify the specific goals each of you agrees to meet so that behaviors and attitudes are directed toward meeting the company’s goals and mission.
  7. Make sure that your roles are carefully, objectively, rationally and completely described to ensure optimal clarity by all individuals for all roles.
  8. Clarify the work processes that will be used on a daily basis: the process for making decisions, including who can make what kind of decisions, who is involved in these steps, and how decisions are to be made (by an individual, a pair or small group). Another process to consider is how to communicate with others and, in particular, which others.
  9. Build trust. Start by acknowledging the current situation. Ensure that you have the knowledge, skills and abilities to perform at a high level.
  10. Demonstrate respect for other people, especially your relatives.

Working with family members can mean big risks and potentially big rewards. Anyone considering the prospect should do extensive “due diligence.” Read articles, reflect carefully on your existing family dynamics, and evaluate those pros and cons as best you can before embarking on a working relationship with family members.