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Entrepreneurship often is discussed in individualistic terms, and we forget that around the world small business is a family affair.

According to the Conference Board of Canada family enterprises generate just under half of GDP, and account for almost 2/3 of all private sector firms.

Beyond the stats about jobs and wealth production, seldom do we talk about family dynamics and being in business with those we love.

The first business I launched in 1998 was with my husband. We sold to an employee in 2016, and now I employ our daughter in my solo consulting practice. Family business for us has been a way of life. Which doesn’t mean it’s EASY.

In fact, I’ve often wondered at times if it wouldn’t be easier to work with strangers! That’s usually when business and life and love mix into a great big emotional mess. Like when your daughter drops the ball on a work assignment because she just had a fight with her roommate. How do you keep someone you love accountable for work when they are struggling with something personal?

This is an ongoing practice for me. But three principles have kept me (relatively) sane:

#1 It’s LOVE first, then Business – For me the mental and emotional wellbeing of my family comes first. That said, I’m thankful my consulting business is not an essential service; no one is going to die if something doesn’t get done today.

#2 Which Hat are You Wearing? Years ago, I read about Three Circle Model of Family Business by Harvard Business School scholars Renato Tagiuri and John Davis. It was a simple Venn diagram which showed the intersecting roles of family, business operations and ownership. It helped me frame conversations during emotionally charged situations. Am I wearing the mom hat, the work colleague hat, or the business owner hat?

#3 Decide on Accountability Mechanisms – If you hire a family member and they drop the ball, how many times will you let it go? And what are the consequences? Decide this together ahead of time. Write it down and refer to it when things go wrong.

This last piece I admit is a work in progress, because when I hired my daughter, we were both rushing into a situation to help one another – I needed help with my social media because I was overwhelmed; she needed a job because she’d just lost hers in the pandemic.

But we’re going to figure it out. When in doubt, refer to rule #1.

What Do You Think?

Please share your experiences and thoughts below. Let’s learn from one another and celebrate each other’s successes.

Thanks for reading!

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