Contributed by Vincent Finaldi, an EO New Jersey member and vice president of TeleCloud, a second-generation business that provides seamless VoIP communications solutions. Vincent also invests time in his passion project, $econd Generation, a video podcast that addresses second-generation businesses and the unique challenges of growing past the founder, navigating through family dynamics and continuing the family legacy.
Family members who are involved in business together can likely relate to this picture. Blending two very different experiences—work life and family life—into one can be complicated. 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, where we focus on business. While business does not have to be harsh or embattled, what translates well in family relationships may not translate into what the business needs and requires.
If you work with your family and extended family members, it is natural to also spend time together after business hours and on weekends in a family atmosphere. Kids’ birthdays, holidays, Sunday dinners and all those wonderful family events that we celebrate throughout the year.
However, in my experience, it can be very difficult to shut off business-oriented topics, even while you’re enjoying an 8-year-old’s birthday party or sitting down for a holiday dinner.
Combining the dinner table with the conference room table is not easy, and not everyone can relate to the challenge.
Here are three takeaways that have helped our family business run smoothly and made the line between business and family a little less blurry.
1. Structure your business meetings
Yes, even with family, your business meetings require structure. The downside of talking business at a family event on the weekends is that there is no meeting pulse. Two siblings and a cousin sitting on the deck drinking adult beverages on a Saturday night may not bring about the best business outcomes or decisions. As you know, business decisions have ripple effects. One bad decision often leads to three other less-than-favorable ripple effects, especially on the staffing side of the business. If you’re enjoying a couple of cocktails, it’s best to talk about lighthearted, fun topics because the lack of meeting formality and focused structure can lead to less-than-favorable outcomes if you discuss business.
In our family business, we use EOS (Entrepreneurial Organization System) for meeting structure. I’ve noticed that whenever we skip the process, we rarely get the results we want, and communication can break down.
2. Hire a moderator/facilitator
Don’t neglect the benefits of a moderator or facilitator, especially for monthly, quarterly or annual meetings. The most productive and healthy family business meetings utilize the skills of moderators or facilitators. Family members know each so well that it can be hard to hear each other at times. When a facilitator gets involved, they slow down the meeting cadence to make sure everyone hears each other fully. The downside of working with siblings, cousins or parents is that you already know their general perspective or opinions—so you may not hear it when a gem of an idea comes to light. Additionally, the moderator can make sure things stay civil 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 three weekend hours together to make business progress, but if you do, you are ignoring other attendees and not being present in the moment. There are likely other people at the party or family event—kids, nieces, nephews, cousins or friends—so be present and enjoy their company to the fullest. The odds are that your family needs a break from the continuous business conversation on issues that won’t get solved in that moment anyway.
In the book Atomic Habits, James Clear 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 family business may feel good because it feels like you are moving forward. However, 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.