Franchising is full of family businesses on both the franchisor side and the franchisee side. There are so many great stories of husband-and-wife, father-and-son, and mother-and-daughter teams. Sometimes it’s a combination of all of the above. Parents often invest in franchises with the intention of having their children take over one day. A family business can be the ultimate legacy. But even though it might seem idyllic, it’s not for everyone. In my years of working with family, I have learned some helpful tips for a successful family business. Here are a few:
Define your roles: It’s important to have your own, well-defined role in your family business. In our business, I am Founder and Chairman and I get to bring laugher and joy to conferences and Zoom meetings all over the country. My husband runs our sales meetings. He’s brilliant at that. We both set out our expectations for what we’re doing and it works.
Keep it professional: Both my husband and I have always used our first names when talking with each other in front of clients. We never use “honey,” “dear,” “sweetie,” or any other pet names. So when our son came to work with us, we did not see any reason for him not to call us by our first names instead of “mom” and “dad.” We knew he had respect for us. We would always be “mom” and “dad” at home, but we felt it would be best for all—customers, and staff—if we kept it professional.
Set boundaries: One of our most important rules was inspired by my son’s experience in his college fraternity. When he came home after his first year, I asked him what went on in the ‘house.’ As nicely as he could, he smiled and said, “Mom, what goes on in the house; stays in the house.” I was not offended – in fact in one long moment I saw the strength of this young man: and a glow of honestly, bravery and yes, even love. How did we put that into working together when he joined our company? We made an agreement that what went on in our ‘home’ never crossed into our ‘business.’ If we argued at home – it was not brought into our business.
Let the next generation explore their options: When our son wanted to come work for our family business directly out of college, we said we would love to have him join, but we wanted him to have a ‘taste’ of the real world’ first. Our 24/7 togetherness was not typical of the corporate world. So, we asked him to explore his options with a big company first, to see if working with us was really want he wanted.
Know your family dynamic: Sometimes it’s just not a good idea to mix business with family. Just because you love each other doesn’t mean that you will be good business partners. It’s not for everyone and that’s ok. Make sure you do some soul searching before you dive in.
My husband and I have launched five successful startups. We’ve worked together since ‘forever’ 24/7 – 365. It works for us. Why? How? The best answer I can give is “we didn’t know it wasn’t supposed to work.” We figured it out, and are still doing it. So, when the pandemic hit and we were at home 24/7/365, it really wasn’t any different. We both might even say we got even closer this year.
Our son came on board a year out of college after working one year in Big Corporate America. He started in our sales department, then became General Manager, and he is now President of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training. He created our online E-learning platform, www.serviceskills.com. We are proud parents!