Working with family can read like a classic novel. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”.
Anyone who’s been brave enough to go into business with family members can affirm that it’s full of ups and downs.
Transitions between the home and the office can be tricky. Learning to wear multiple hats and change gears gets tiresome. Discerning between the problem and what’s personal is hard.
But challenges don’t mean it has to end in tragedy. I’ve worked with family members for years, and I absolutely love getting to see them in both the home and the office!
Sure, working with family members has challenges, but there are some serious rewards! But, you’re going to have to use some strategies in order to avoid relational breakdowns.
Today, I want to give you five things to think about when it comes to working with family.
Enjoy today’s episode!
Chris LoCurto 0:01
Working with family members can read like a classic novel, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. And anyone who's been brave enough to go into business with family members knows that it's full of ups and downs. But that doesn't mean that it has to end badly. All that is coming up next.
Welcome to the Chris LoCurto show where we discuss leadership and life and discover that business is what you do, not who you are. Welcome to the show, folks, I hope you're having a fabulous day, wherever you are. Probably the oldest known business model in existence is the family business model. And listing your spouse and or your kids and work has to be how it all got started, right. Anyone who has had to run a farm can probably attest to the obvious advantages, you get free help you have established relationships, you can get them to do just about anything. All around the world, family owned and operated businesses are still common and still thriving. We've had plenty of strap plans right here in our offices, where teams of family members have sat around the table and been able to strategize about the future of their business. Together, they've come back the following year, having grown having learned and having improved. In fact, if you're a family business and interested in taking your company to the next level, head on over to ChrisLoCurto.com/strat plan. This is the strategic planning event that will help your business to get unstuck and move forward. Once again, ChrisLoCurto.com/strat plan. Now there's a lot to be said, for family members who work together. And again, we've had phenomenal events, we've had some tough ones too. There's no doubt about it.
The key is how do we get on the same page, right? Some of the great advantages of having a family businesses, they're usually loyal, they can be very committed, they already know your personality style, they know you personally, right? They know both the good and the bad. They're not easily scared off, they usually stick around. I can tell you as somebody who works with his wife, it's fabulous. I love it. Two of our daughters have worked in the business. And it's fabulous. It i It is something that brings me a ton of joy. It doesn't mean that it's easy. It doesn't mean that you know, communication is always the best. Sometimes it can be tough. But I can tell you it is an absolute blessing. There are disadvantages.
As I talk through all of the familiarity as being advantages, sometimes it can be a disadvantage, sometimes it can be one of those things where, you know, my wife and I worked together before we ever dated and got married. And so being married together, and now she's a business owner and has been for years now. Sometimes the familiarity of well, we are running this business sometimes can affect the communication with team members, it can affect expectations, right, because sometimes it can become a little too easy, it can become too familiar. So it's all over the place, you know that it can be fantastic. It can be a blessing. But it can also be something that is very difficult to work with as well. So it is something that I love and just wouldn't have it any other way. You know, Lenay our oldest is absolutely phenomenal in the business and just it brings me joy. However, modern culture tends to be skeptical of hiring family members and sometimes for good reasons. Let's admit that it's not always like I said peaches and cream, it's, it can be tough. Emotions can run high feathers can get ruffled, people can, can walk out, right, sometimes that familiarity can lead to very destructive relationships. I praise God that we do the stuff we teach. So that's never happened with us, right? But it doesn't mean that it's always been great and perfect. There's times we have to work through things. It's just never that difficult. Why because we all practice the very things we teach. So a lot of times with the culture today that doesn't happen. Working with family members can sometimes be challenging, but there are some strategies that you can use to make it successful. So today I'm going to give you five things to think about when it comes to working with family and just like moving between home and office with the same people family and team members. There will be some overlap here. So as we move through these five things, right, so repetition is okay, each is is highlighting something that needs to be said, but maybe in a different way. So let's start with the first thing. And I know you're gonna be super shocked about this clarify, make sure there's clarity, clarify the culture, and value the values. So if what's super important is super clear, then we will value what's really valuable. Now, that may sound like some crazy double talk, but let's kind of walk through this, what tends to get blurred when dealing with family members are the, quote, rules of conduct. Especially when the context changes.
So it's natural to carry over how we relate with each other when we're sitting on the couch, when we're watching TV, to sitting across from each other at the conference table, you know, sitting across from each other in an office, right? So we really have to keep an eye out for communicating how we do things at work, what we value at work, right? What's important at work, we've got to remind everybody involved all the family members involved, here's what's important here. You know, our family values, our family culture, our family mission is maybe very different than what we do at the business. You know, saying, here, we value communication, we value commitment, we value clarity, you know, we're at home, it's just assumed, right? Maybe it's a given. These are things we need to state when it comes to work. This enables us to then ask each team member, are we doing that with each other? You know, are we placing value on our values? This helps us to focus on the things that are important, right? The crazy thing is, is nepotism or, you know, unfairly favoring family members over the employees isn't as big of a problem as people might tend to think it is. Sometimes it can actually be the opposite. You know, that's one of the things that, you know, my daughter has been concerned about it's like, does it sounds like nepotism as I know, it sounds like you're taking responsibility. It sounds like you're doing exactly what's needed. Right. But that shouldn't be as much of a fear because believe it or not, most people aren't focused on it. Now, I will say I have definitely worked with people where there's absolute nepotism, and where, you know, team members are just like, well, the boss's kid gets everything they want, and they get away with everything. And they can scrape, I've definitely seen that. But for every time I've seen that, I've probably seen five businesses where it doesn't exist, right, where you don't see that you see hardworking family members, because you have, you know, decent leaders that are not wanting their kids to be entitled and and be spoiled. So sometimes we think that it's a lot bigger than it is, and it just really isn't.
So sometimes, because of nepotism, we can tend to throw those that we are related to under the bus first. Now, why is that? It comes down to leverage and expectations. If a family member if Uncle Bob is doing a crappy job, then we can have a tendency to swing the pendulum straight on over from favor all the way over to putting the screws to him. Right, because we know Uncle Bob and Uncle Bob shouldn't be doing this and Uncle Bob shouldn't be acting this way. You know, and so unfortunately, we can be much harder on a relative we can throw that relative under the bus a heck of a lot faster. Because we know that's again, that familiarity because we know Uncle Bob, right. So hopefully your that's making a lot of sense to you. Something that's that kind of blurs the line between relatives and colleagues, is that there aren't clear disconnects between home and office. This transition can be tricky. Right now. Again, as I'm saying this, I'm speaking into a lot of the negatives, I can tell you with our family, we love what we do. We're crazy about what we do a lot of family businesses love what they do. And sometimes the transition is great. It's not difficult, it's joyful. But boy, I can tell you I've seen some families that really struggle because the expectation is is that you work for the company 24/7 You're always there. You're always taking care of stuff. It doesn't matter if it's dinnertime at at the family house, then, you know conversations are still about business and you're expected to take phone calls at 10 o'clock at night and so on and so forth. So we have to understand that sometimes the family lines blur that right they're blurred because you We don't transition. And I will tell you that is super important.
My wife and I, we are big on when the day is over the day is over. Right? When the day is done, be done. transition, we have a good time, you know, rough point almost every single day where it's like, get everything done, you can get done because we're transitioning into personal life, be done with work. Now, that doesn't mean it's always going to be that way once in a while, it's not. But we have such a phenomenal team that they get stuff taken care of. And they're able to transition as well. But for those of us that are family members inside of the business, it needs to be clear cut. We need to enjoy our evening and enjoy our personal life businesses. What we do, it's not who we are, right, it's a part of who we are. Now, this is huge for us to understand transition is incredibly important. Don't blur those lines right now, with all of that being said, we saw a lot during the COVID era lockdowns were home and office was literally feet away, you know, your your coffee table might have become your office, your your dinner table might have become your office for a while. And and that's kind of understandable that that really super blurred the lines a lot. It did seem to put a lot of stress on a lot of family businesses. And at the same time, I think a lot of things became laxed as well. It just depends on what business you're in and what family are in. But this is a big reason and why it's so important that families rehearse their cultural values, more than they do even with their own team members. So think about this. We're constantly telling you it's highly valuable and highly important that you rehearse your culture with your team members, they've got to understand the culture, you've got to consistently teach it and catch it and you know, call it out when it's bad and reward it when it's good. And all these things. Well, it's got to be that way with your your family, right? It's got to be even more with your family, especially if you're working out of the same house that you live in, right. So keep on making sure that the values are coming up over and over and over in conversation that everybody understands that number to combat the conflict, not each other. I like it. A lot of people just heard that. And I'm like, Well, that sounds easy. This is vitally important, folks. It is vitally important. This is something I think for me. I've said a lot. You know, if if you're frustrated with the situation, I've said this to family members, I've said this to team members, I've said this to clients, if you're frustrated with the situation. Why are you frustrated with me? Am I the problem? Am I the struggle I you know, if you're going to attack me over something? Is it because it's due? Or are you dumping on me? Right? So in other words, keep the problem, the problem. When you lose focus, you lose the battle, conflict is going to happen.
It's inevitable in working with family members. Just have a plan in place for how you resolve disputes and disagreements as quickly and as amicably as possible. Right? So as soon as you hear phrases like you always or you never know that the focus and objectivity has been lost, this is now going to be personal about you. Right? And so you've got to learn how do I take this and not just become immediately defensive? How do I turn this thing back around to what the problem is? That's why I have a tendency to to recognize when somebody's frustrated, and attacking me. And to go, am I the problem? If so, let's talk about what I've done. But if I'm not the problem, and you're experiencing something that's painful, difficult, frustrating, maddening, whatever it is, what is it? Let's not just dump it on me, because I'm your husband, father, whatever it is, what's the problem? We got to make sure that we're de escalating the situation emotionally. So when you see that somebody is emotionally attached to the situation, start to ask questions that get them away from the emotions Hey, what's the facts? What's the situation? What actually happened? What is it that's frustrating you Why are you so frustrated about it? Is it something that we can just fix, you know, start to help get them removing the emotions from the situation? Make sure that you're placing value on the person, not the problem. Right so somebody is experiencing something. It's very good for you to express listening. I hear you let me repeat you back what I've heard you say that this is got to be frustrating for you, Man, I hate this, this sucks. Whatever it is, make sure that that person feels that you value them over the problem, right? If you're the one who's expressing the problem, make sure you're not attacking the family member. But instead that you value the person and you're focusing on what the problem is, right? Another thing is that you make sure that you get a grip on conflict. Right? It's okay to have conflict. If you're running a family business, you've already experienced conflict, you've experienced it in the family you're experiencing in the business? How do we get a grip on the conflict itself? Right, how do we make sure that we don't make the person the conflict? So have a plan for conflict resolution? You know, make sure it's like running through a fire drill, right? Make sure that you have a plan for if this happens, we do this you know, with us in our business. You've heard me say this 1000 times, you know, we solve problems, what happened? How did it happen? Why did it happen? How do we fix it? How do we make sure never happens? Again, it doesn't matter if your family member not solve the problem. Don't make it about a person, we don't play the blame game, don't throw somebody under the bus, solve the dadgum problem. So we can move on and make sure it doesn't happen again. So again, make sure that you're you have a plan for conflict resolution. Something could be like saying, you know, okay, we're at an impasse here. And things are getting tense, let's call down and then sit down, and maybe a neutral location, maybe get out of the house, get away from team members, where we can sort this thing out, you know, maybe have that type of a conversation, where give somebody you know, 510 15 minutes, let's just call down from it, let's just slow down. Let's step away from the house, let's go outside, let's go to a coffee shop, maybe that's, maybe you don't wanna go public place. And when you're dealing with conflict with a family member, but you know, let's do something so that we can cool down and then focus on what the actual problem is, and then go back to asking questions, gain perspective about what the problem is. If you are getting some decent information, repeat it back to the other person. Hey, here's what I'm hearing you say, if I if I'm hearing you correctly, I'm hearing you say the problem is this. You know, make sure that you've got a good process of resolving conflict.
Alright, number three. Keep it professional, not personal. A lot of you're probably going well, no, duh, listen, don't lose your objectivity. A family member in the workplace is still an employee, they're still a team member? Or maybe they're a leader. But remember, it's not personal. It's just business. All Chris, how can you possibly say that? It's a family business? Of course, it's personal. Listen, it's not it shouldn't be. As as it was, as set in the movie, The Godfather, it's not personal, it's just business. Hopefully, you're not killing anybody like Michael Corleone did. It is easy in a family business, to take things personally. Especially when we're in the office, it's very easy to carry that over into the home life. It's super easy to take things personally and hold grudges, right? It's especially true when you are spending time with family members outside of the office. You know, if you're if you're both in the if you're all in the same house, then it can definitely be something that's held over sometimes I think, you know, if you're in close proximity, it could actually be resolved faster than you live further away. But the key is to understand, you can't take things too personally. It's business. It's something we're trying to do to serve people and put food on our own table. Right? It doesn't mean that we're not passionate about our business. It doesn't mean you know, it may sound like I'm asking you not to look at your business personally. That's not what I'm saying at all. What I'm saying is, so please hear me. We are very passionate about what we do. Family members, team members, we are very passionate about what we do. It is not difficult to see. We love serving you. We love helping people become better, stronger, better family members, better team members, better leaders, better parents. It just absolutely brings us joy. But at the end of the day, our family is more important. I love you guys.
I give so much of my life to help people But at the end of the day, my family must be more important. It has to be right. And in my family, God is the most important thing before family. Right? God comes first, then family. So understanding that and having a right relationship will help you to recognize, bust your butt at work, be passionate about work, do everything you can about work. But don't take it personally. Right? Fight to make things better. Don't fight against each other. If you have family baggage, if you have things that you grudges that you've been holding, you got to solve that. You got to sit down and talk about Hey, be as blunt as saying, Is this more important than our family relationship? Right Is this more important than then the closeness that we share? I have helped many family businesses to overcome family battles. I've helped some, just huge family battles to you know, get undone and unstuck. And it's been painful and difficult. But praise God. In the end, when a family is able to walk away from holding grudges, and trying to hurt each other. It just makes life so much better. And so I will say, no matter what happens, you have to remember that these are the people you're going to spend Thanksgiving with most likely. You know, these may be the very people that you sit down at the breakfast table with. If we have baggage, if we have unresolved conflict, then it's going to continue to ruin the relationship, much less the business, it will definitely ruin the business over time. It will ruin aspects of it. But at the end of the day, business is what you do. You know, families family. So be passionate, but don't allow business struggles to wreck your relationship. Remember what I said before de escalate stuff. Make sure that you're valuing the person first. Make sure that you're keeping the problem the problem and guys, don't take your workplace issues home with you leave them at the office where they belong. Well, Chris, our house is the office. Listen, you know what I'm saying? Make sure that solve the work stuff at work, transition into family life, transition into personal life, right? It's that important.
Number four, roles, respect and responsibility. Oh, my changing hats is not easy. And sometimes we actually forget to change that stinking hat, you got to change the hat, right? Don't lose sense of your context. Context is so vitally important. Clearly define each family members role and responsibilities within the business. Listen, even with your family members, you need care A's and KPIs. You've got to make sure this is a very tough thing, because again, the familiarity jumps in here. Well, I know my child, I know my spouse. So I just need to tell them hey, you know what, what do you think about doing this role? Oh, absolutely great. And then you didn't explain it because you just assumed that they would get it? No, it understand it. And then you find yourself having problems. So clearly define each family members roles and responsibilities within the business. This will avoid confusion and minimize disagreements down the line if you want to cut out a bunch of conflict. I know it sounds crazy. Put in accountability. Folks, everybody out there who hears me say 14 billion times you need more accountability, guess what, you need more accountability, even with family members, if you will put accountability in place, then it makes it really easy to have conversations. Why? Because it's clearly defined. They understand what's expected of them. Also respect each other's skills and expertise. If somebody's better at something than you are for the love, let them do it. Right. It doesn't mean you don't give input on things. But I have spent my business life surrounding myself with people who are better in my weaknesses than I am right now. If it's their strength, and it's my weakness, then I want them to do it. I want to make them great at it. I don't want to be the one who does it. So respect people with their skills and abilities right. Each family member has their own unique skills and expertise. It's important Learn to recognize and respect these skills and not assume that you know better than they do. Right. And that's tough for a lot of business owners. For a lot of family members who started the business. Well, you're the one who went out there and made things happen and you made the widget, you sold the widget. And so in your mind, you know what's best, but guess what you might be hopefully, you're bringing in people because they're smarter and better than you are in areas. And so hopefully, you're bringing in a team member, a family member who's going to be a better team member than you are in that area. Right? Doesn't mean you don't give input doesn't mean you don't train, just recognize their skills and abilities, right? Be honest about your expectations and concerns buff for it becomes emotionally charged. And that means that you're gonna have to stay on top of it. Right. So if you're respecting them, and you have clearly communicated and you have accountability in place, then I promise, you will have way less problems than family businesses that are way out of control.
Number five, this is so important. Celebrate accomplishments and accountability, acknowledge and celebrate each other's accomplishments. But don't shy away from holding each other accountable. So we need to make sure that positive mile markers are in place, they need to remind us they need to help us to understand that all of this is worth it. Right? If we're not celebrating, sometimes we might celebrate with team members, way faster than we celebrate with family members, family members need to understand their winning as well, right. So you know, make sure if a family member is being the team's MVP, then recognize it don't put a family member in MVP role. If they're not right, make sure if they're if a family member closes a really big sale, or if they're going above and beyond on something, you know, whatever it is, if they're doing something that's a first for the company, or even just something so simple as anniversaries and, and contributions, celebrate, celebrate, celebrate, celebrate, they need to experience it as well. A lot of times this happens with a lot of families, we will have a patriarch or matriarch who's leading the business, that just assumes that a family member doesn't need recognition. And folks, I can't tell you how wrong that is, they absolutely do need it. So there's always ways that you can pause and reflect over what makes each team member as well as each family member valuable, right. So help them to experience that at the same time. We have to hold each other accountable. Do not do not do not be lacs with family members of accountability. They have to stick to the rules. They have to stick to the culture, they have to stick to the expectations. Listen to me on this Listen, listen, listen, Nothing will separate your family and your team members faster than you not holding family members accountable to the same things that you hold team members to now listen, there, there is something for me, I have amazing team members that bust their butt go well above and beyond. And they have there are certain things that I will be lenient with, you know, there's people that work many more hours than, you know, I ask of them, and it's their passion, and it's their desire and their drive, and they're just going to make sure that things happen. There's a level of leniency that comes with a team member who goes well above and beyond. Unfortunately, many times we give that same leniency to a family member who's not, we can be incredibly lenient with a family member who's not going above and beyond. And that is terrible, because what happens is, is those that are busting it, see the leniency or the excess approval or the excess accolades or whatever it is, that's given to that family member. And it becomes a slight to the team member. Because that means that the culture is favoring a family member who's not working as hard over a team member who is working harder than the family member. So make sure accountability is in place. If they're not doing the job, right. bust them forward, do something, hold them accountable, call them out, do what it takes to get the family member to do what they need to do. This is how we stay healthy. This is how we stay vibrant. This is how we thrive as a family or any business really.
So let's look at our list again and put it in a different framework number one, protect the culture and values. Number two, keep the problem the problem. Number three, it's just business not personal. Number four, stay in your lane with respect And number five celebrate the wins together. Now some of you may want to check out our key leaders program as well. We have lots of folks in our mastermind groups who are in family business situations. I think it can be a win for your team as well. So check it out at ChrisLoCurto.com/key Leaders program for more information, ChrisLoCurto.com/key Leadership Program. Well, folks, that's all the time we have for today. Hopefully this has helped you even free. This should be incredibly helpful for everybody who's even not in a family business. But I know a lot of you out there are. And so hopefully this has helped you today to make a better phone or work environment. more accountable, higher communication, for your family as well as Sure. As always, take this information, change leadership, change your business, change your life, and join us on the next up