One of the mantras around our offices concerns the health of interpersonal relationships in a family owned business.  It’s quite simple, and I really like it.  Are you ready?  Here it is:  No business success is worth a family failure.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that everyone’s family, my own included, experiences some level of dysfunction.  It can be anywhere from somewhat comical to outright tragic.  Imagine reaching a high level of business and financial success only to learn that your spouse wants a divorce and your children don’t want to be around you. 

Most of us don’t even want to imagine that situation; but we get so wrapped up in what we do that many of us often lose sight of family success or slide it to the side thinking we’ll come back to it tomorrow.  But even though tomorrow never comes for some things, children do grow up and spouses do grow apart. 

It is possible to have business success and family success at the same time.  It takes a concerted effort and a lot of energy; but it can be done.  If you begin to sense that you are headed toward business success only, here are steps that you can take to bring your family back into focus:

  • Remember that you will probably have your business longer than your children will live at home. 
  • Treat your family at least as well you treat your customers.
  • Make going home more important than staying at work.
  • If you must take work home, set up a small, uncomfortable, and unpleasant home office so that you spend as little time as possible working where you are supposed to be living.
  • Value the love and respect of family members as much as you value respect from business colleagues and competitors.

James Taylor sings a song about showering the people you love with love.  Show them the way that you feel.  Simple as that sounds, it isn’t that easy.  Sometimes it takes a lot of imagination and patience to carry out that simple little refrain; and sometimes it’s hard to remember that you can’t run a family like a business and you really can’t run a business like a family. 

In the end, if you can only have one form of success – business or family – which one will you choose?  Will your legacy be told in terms of whom you loved or what you loved?    

 Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter to stay informed on how to overcome related succession planning issues.