I believe that family isn’t important in micro business…
Instead family is everything.
Without the support of those closest to you, it’s going to be a real struggle to stay emotionally strong and do what’s necessary to ensure your micro business is a success (and that it does indeed enable you to achieve the goals you’ve set yourself).
And whilst it’s easy to say, it’s not easy to achieve. And a lot of micro business owners juggle with just that problem.
Let’s look at the evidence.
Did you know that 65% of private sector companies are family owned? (There is clearly something powerful and effective about having family values at the heart of business).
In addition, if you work in a micro business business it’s inevitable that your family are involved.
Whether you are formally working with your family in a proper ‘family business’, or whether family life has to revolve around your business, you’ll have felt the pressure of finding a work life balance.
As a child I loved to play the ‘Happy Family’ card game.
It paints a very quaint view of families, where the roles of everyone in the family is defined by the job of the main breadwinner (literally in the Case of Mr Bun the Baker!). The reality of the modern world is that few of us have the luxury of organising our lives around one main worker, instead it is usual for couples to both be pursing their own business or careers, with layers of support (and tensions) around them.
Our business lives and family lives become entwined as never before, with modern technology blurring the boundaries; adding pressure and opportunities.
Involving your family brings major strengths
- You are likely to have high levels of trust and understanding, and be able to work effectively together
- Your business is much more likely to be able to plan strategically and carefully for the future, and be able to resist pressure for short term cash gain (compared to business with shareholders)
- It can be possible to invest a lot of time in your business without being away from your family
- Partners and children are more likely to be sympathetic to the necessary time sacrifices if they feel involved with your business
But obviously there are also some risks:
- Limiting the ‘gene pool’ (literally!) can limit your ability to have variety of personalities, and therefore limit your creativity and capability
- When things get tough, the pressure is increased if more than one family depend on the same businesses for income
- If there is no separation between work and family, there can be a high risk of burnout
The key to an effective family business is to play to the strengths and limit the impact of the weaknesses.
So here are some top tips to help you play ‘happy families’
- Development: Are you clear that the people involved in the business are there because they have chosen to be, or have they been dragged in because of necessity or obligation? How might you give members of the family opportunities to be heard, to develop or to leave if that’s what’s right for them? Look for opportunities to develop those around you (this is especially important in traditional ‘family business’ where the next generation will need a very different set of skills to take the business forward to success. Check out the various specific family business support networks for advice about development opportunities and training.)
- Diversity: Think carefully about opportunities to work with those outside the family, to find ways of learning from them, and getting them to help your business grow and develop. When key decision are being taken do you have a variety of voices in the room? Could a business coach, or a business network meeting help bring some useful diversity into your approach?
- Set boundaries: Whether it’s a time limit (no phone calls / text messages after 8pm?) or a physical boundary (keeping stock in a work room rather than spread all over the house?) or a boundary that draws a line around holidays, or meal times. It is crucial that your family know that there is a time when they don’t have to be ‘professional’ with you, or compete for your attention. Can you leave your phone on your desk rather than the dinner table? Equally if you work from home, then it’s important that your work space is respected and that your family understand not to charge in uninvited! If you have small children as part of your family this is especially important!
- Show your appreciation: Particularly if you are not employing your family, make sure you know that their support, encouragement & forbearance of your business is very much appreciated! Don’t take for granted the support of a partner who is also working, or family members that pitch in with childcare or other practical help. Take time to explain your plans to them, and share the rewards with them too. Maybe mark the end of the financial year, or product launch, or big project by taking everyone out for a ‘thank you’ meal?
How do you achieve work-life balance?
How do you ensure you spend enough quality time with the kids and your loved ones? What strategies do you have in place to ensure there is harmony between your personal and professional life? Please let me know in the comments below.
Book Club: Wisdom of Crowds, by James Suroweiki
Not specifically a book about family, but a fantastic read about how decisions made by groups are always better than decisions made by individuals (even by experts on their own). This is the perfect book to end our series on working together as it gives so many wonderful and powerful examples why we are stronger when we work together. Through many very readable examples and case studies some important lessons for working together (or ‘Wise crowds’) are made. The key point is that the strength of the crowd is in its diversity, and the challenge is to avoid any management system that homogenises views.
When we work together we do it to bring diverse strengths together, but too often we loose all that value in the way that we handle the teams, groups, crowds, or families that we have around us! The ideal model of a ‘strong crowd’ described by Suroweiki is the audience of the TV show ‘Who wants to be a millionaire?’. This perfect model has the diverse and independent members who can aggregate their option through their seat buttons when the contestant ‘asks the audience’. The responses generated are astonishingly accurate!
Today’s Micro Action
It’s Friday… so turn your phone off, put the laptop away and spend some quality time with your family! Make sure they know that you appreciate them, take some time to tell them what you’ve been working on, and listen to their stories and hear what’s important to them too.