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The Benefits And Challenges Of Owning A Family Business

If you own a family business or know someone who does, this podcast is for you. Seventy to ninety percent of American businesses are family owned, and they each come with a special set of challenges, opportunities, and strengths. In this episode of the Team Success Podcast, Shannon Waller and Matt Curry, an entrepreneur with a five-generation history in family business who’s experienced firsthand the transition of inheriting a company, do a deep dive into all things family businesses—the good, the bad, and the uniquely satisfying. They explore not only the difficulties that can arise, but the many surprising benefits of working with family, plus concrete strategies for navigating the complexities successfully.

Show Notes:

  • A staggering 70-90% of American businesses are family owned.
  • One huge benefit of working in a family business is the ability to develop a really strong relationship with your family members.
  • When you’re working together and striving toward a common goal, you take your relationship to a new level—and get to see someone you love in a new light.
  • Family also often comes with implicit trust and shared values, which takes some of the mental load off running a business. You don’t have to worry about people slacking off or taking advantage of you.
  • Entrepreneurship is often lonely because you feel like nobody understands what you’re going through and there’s no one to confide in, but when you’re working with family, it’s often easier to talk about your struggles or ask for support.
  • All of this makes for a unique and dynamic workplace.
  • However, for some people, communication in a family business can be more difficult, not less. Some family members may not have great communication skills or know how to offer constructive feedback because they’ve had no formal training in giving feedback like a manager in a corporate organization would have.
  • They may also hold you to a higher standard because they’re afraid other team members will think they’re favoring you. (Though this does give you extra credibility!)
  • Nepotism is always a risk as well. Sometimes, family members are hired or promoted because they’re family, not because they’ve earned the position.
  • It’s important to make sure you hold family members accountable and to the same standards as everybody else.
  • Favoritism and a lack of consistent standards affect everybody. To avoid alienating your other team members and stunting the growth of your company, make expectations and qualifications clear.
  • It’s essential to balance business and family dynamics. When it comes to your company, business has to come first, even when family members you respect have differing opinions.
  • Growing up in an entrepreneurial family can provide a unique mindset and understanding of the ups and downs of business, but it’s important to ensure that family members are the right fit for the job and not just hired for comfort or familiarity.
  • That also means that toxic team members need to go, no matter how close you are personally.
  • Inheriting a company from family comes with unique challenges. It’s important to have a clear operating system and accountability chart in order to avoid confusion and misunderstandings.
  • Parents shouldn’t ask their kids to take over the business without clear expectations and guidelines in place.
  • One great rule of thumb? Make sure your kids or other family members have three to five years’ experience working somewhere else before they join the company.
  • This kind of outside experience not only eliminates entitlement, but ensures they are consciously choosing your company, not defaulting to it because it’s easy or expected.
  • When bringing your kids into the business, don’t expect them to be just like you. They should be focusing on their unique skills and talents, just as you should be.
  • When everybody knows where to best direct their time and energy, the company flourishes.


The Kolbe A Index

Unique Ability®


The Three Circle Model of The Family Business System

Business is Business: Reality Checks for Family-Owned Companies by Kathy Kolbe and Amy Bruske

Multiplication By Subtraction: How to Gracefully Let Go of Wrong-Fit Team Members by Shannon Waller

Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Move Forward by Dr. Henry Cloud

Episode Transcript:
Shannon Waller: If you have a family business, or you know someone in a family business, stay tuned as Matt Curry and I talk about the pros and the cons and the strategies to make sure that you take full advantage, and make it the very, very, very best family business that you can. Enjoy.
Hi. Shannon Waller here, and welcome to Team Success. Today, I am with my dear friend, my peer, Strategic Coach client, Matt Curry. And today, we are talking about the pros and cons of family businesses. And this applies to so many people. So, Matt, I am thrilled that we are finally doing this. And what you may not know is that Matt and I talk often about all sorts of different things. We are both passionate about Kolbe, we're both passionate about having really great systems in companies. Well, we've always thought, "Oh, it's too bad people can't listen in to our conversation." So, finally.
Matt Curry: We're here.
Shannon Waller: We get to.
Matt Curry: Exactly.
Shannon Waller: Which is super cool. So, one of the things that we really hit on that was a topic that would be really, really relevant for so many people, and I was amazed at the stat, I think it's 70 to 90% of American business is family-owned.
Matt Curry: It's amazing how many, I don't know what the percentage is, but just organically with my clients, I was just doing the percentages, I have more than 50% family business, accidentally. It has nothing to do with just, "Oh, my family business background," or whatever it might be.

About the Author

Shannon Waller, Entrepreneurial Team Strategist, is a natural collaborator who instinctively saw that a thriving Unique Ability® Team can strengthen their entrepreneur, the business, and themselves. A win-win-win. Go, team, is Shannon’s rallying cry.

Profile Photo of Shannon Waller