Don’t emulate dad – and other ways to lead a family business

The role of CEO is a tough, demanding position and is loaded with the highest of highs and lowest of lows. Being a family business CEO entails another set of challenges and opportunities that requires a combination of business discipline and family dynamics.

The role of CEO is a tough, demanding position and is loaded with the highest of highs and lowest of lows. Being a family business CEO entails another set of challenges and opportunities that requires a combination of business discipline and family dynamics.

The family business CEO is not only responsible for leading a profitable business but assumed to also understand family dynamics in and out of the workplace. Working with family members — especially if you’re not one — creates an unusual set of circumstances stemming from the emotions of the family and the needs of the business.

Leading a successful, multigenerational family business requires the CEO to establish practices that lead to better communication and harmony. Here are five steps:

The conflict that originates in many family businesses often arises from family members having unclear or differing expectations about their roles and responsibilities.

The most effective family business CEOs ensure that family members, inside and outside the business, understand their roles and responsibilities to the company, to each other and to the larger family group.

Establishing some formal governance, such as a family council, is a great way to establish goals and objectives of the family and meet to discuss progress.

There’s a clear tendency to separate and protect the business from the family. For example, family members typically aren’t invited to collaborate with other business executives to develop a vision for the company, unless those family members are in senior positions in the company.

This makes sense, as these family members aren’t in the trench and battling the market every day. However, they still want to know what is going on.

Successful family business CEOs understand the need for regular meetings with the larger family, separate and apart from business meetings. These meetings serve as a communication channel to share information about the company and its performance, as well as set expectations in key areas such as dividends, reinvestment, growth and liquidity.

These meetings are not a forum to get in the weeds of the business. That is the executive team’s job.

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