3 Family Business Owner Pitfalls to Avoid

Most family-owned businesses are small businesses, and inherent in most family businesses are a unique set of challenges. Be careful to avoid these common pitfalls that can plague a family business owner.

You can’t escape the stress of your job.

The line between the family business and the family get blurred easily. Unplugging from the business can be very difficult. Dinner discussions become work-related. Late night phone calls from family members frequently are work-related. Even your dreams can become work-related, and it will feel as if you are never away from the business — even when you are away from the business!

Solution: Develop the next level of management and set boundaries. Owners in family businesses have a tendency to want to do it all and resist delegation. It’s important to develop the next line of leadership with incremental delegation of duties, allowing them to grow into their next positions.

Also, set boundaries. You have to establish “workfree” zones. The dinner table. After 9 pm. While on vacation. If these solutions are not brought into the business/family, the family business owner will suffer from burnout.

You aren’t adapting fast enough.

Time flies, the world changes and business owners can quickly fall behind. I find many family-business owners can get lost in the weeds (minutiae) of the business. They spend so much time focusing on the micro that the macro side of the business can pass them by.

Solution: The culture of your business must include trying new things. New products, marketing methods, scheduling of employees, customer contacts, etc. The same ol’, same ol’ is a failed approach to business today. As I’ve heard it said:  Winners don’t wait for their chances, they take them.

You are no longer fully committed.

As the years go along and the leader of the business approaches multiple decades in the same position, he or she starts to play safe instead of playing to win. The desire for risk taking to grow gets replaced with the desire for stability and routine. This is not an effective approach to growing a business.

Solution: Take a hard, objective look at your approach to the business. It’s time to make a choice. Either jump all the way in or all the way out. To thrive in today’s business climate, the business owner has to be focused on creating a future, not milking it.

Running a successful family business can be very challenging, but done properly it can be life-defining and extremely rewarding.