3 Of the Best Tips to Future-Proof Your Family Business
Posted July 25, 2018
6 min read
Juggling your work, passion, family, and children is no easy task. Add working in a family business setting, and this can be even more challenging.
The reality is you know certain stressors will always be there when it comes to working in a family business. That said, it doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to create balance and healthy relationships in your business.
If you start with these 3 tips, you can help “future-proof” your funeral home so it can thrive and continue on for future generations.
Tip #1: Take the ‘Business’ Out of ‘Family Business’
First, make sure you have structure and formality so your family can balance business needs, meaningful time together, and quality personal time.
“By doing this, you can ensure that your family business doesn’t overwhelm your very existence,” explains Tom Hubler, a nationally recognized expert and consultant for family businesses. Hubler owns Hubler for Business Families, a firm that helps family businesses manage the boundary between their business/ and financial concerns and their family relationships.
You may think you need less time together, but it’s about creating more quality time together, where work isn’t the focus. “The underlying principle is that it’s important to build the emotional equity of the family while you’re simultaneously building the equity of the company. One of the ways you do that is to spend time with each other.”
If you don’t already have them, Hubler recommends setting up family rituals (or customs) that reinforce family connections outside of the business context.
Family rituals are generally the glue that holds a family together, explains Hubler. “The critical thing is to do things that allow you to celebrate who you are as a family,” explains Hubler. Your goal can be to avoid the everyday norms of running and operating your funeral home.
Focus on building relationships with your family members in an environment where business issues aren’t discussed.
One of Hubler’s clients is a family business with two brothers who work alongside each other. One manages the finances of the company and the other handles the operations. The two brothers have breakfast together every single morning. Previously, when their father was alive, he also went to breakfast with them.
“That’s one of the ways that these two brothers are able to build that equity—through the time that they spend together, without talking about business. They also do things independently, with their families, their kids, their adult children, and their spouses, and so forth. It’s a combination of creating a balance between spending time with each other and spending time apart.”
Tip #2: Start talking about your family’s influences and values
Another issue can be when in-laws enter the family business or become more involved in family dynamics.
Realize that anyone outside of your family, such as in-laws, were raised in an entirely different family. That means they have different norms, values, and expectations about what it means to be a family and what it means to go to work each day. You can’t expect them to immediately adopt all your guidelines or norms for doing business.
Hubler sees this when in-laws, for example, enter a family business. “They may be operating under the assumption that things are the way it was in their family, and that doesn’t always happen. And of course, that’s what can create a lot of tension,” he explains. (This can happen even when in-laws aren’t actually working in the business, too.)
When families take the time to come together, share their history, their desired approach, philosophy, and values, all family members can better understand where decisions come from. Those who didn’t grow up in the family business can even share their perspective on what it was like to not grow up in a family business.
“What we can see in a family business setting is that an organizational problem in the business is experienced as an interpersonal issue. And the way they deal with that can be to blame others,” adds Hubler.
Hubler’s seen this numerous times when a new daughter-in-law or son-in-law who hasn’t grown up in the business has the finger pointed at them, as if they are the cause of any problems. The takeaway is this: rather than blame, make sure you set aside time to explore cultural differences between families, and that alone can go a long way in preventing or resolving conflict.
Tip #3: Create a refuge to recharge
“I’ve never had the experience of going home from work. I’m always on the job.”
Many funeral directors can relate to this thought. In a family business, business can sneak its way into conversations over dinner, at Church, or even at children’s weekend activities. Those are examples of where boundaries can be added to your personal life and business life.
Even though more people are seeing their personal and business lives being “blended” today, in family business, this can serve as a constant source of stress.
And, no matter how well run your funeral home is, and no matter how strong your family rituals are, the truth is that spending every waking moment with your family is a recipe for building resentment, annoyance, or even anxiety. “Part of maintaining a healthy and strong family unit and running a sustainable funeral home is knowing that sometimes it’s completely necessary to simply take a break from it all,” explains Hubler.
For this reason, it’s important to be proactive in maintaining hobbies and friendships outside of your family and your business, he says. This works best when people dive deep into personal interests to center themselves each day, or where they find little ways to spend meaningful time away from the family. That might be weekly happy hours with people they don’t work with or it might be going to the gym with friends they don’t work with, or another routine or habit.
“When you can find consistent time away from your family, it makes working with them that much more rewarding,” he adds.
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Spend less time on admin and day-to-day operations, and spend more time with families. See how CRäKN can help you stay on top of every detail: request a demo today.
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