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Seven Tips To Successful Working Relationships In a Family Business

By Brookman Solicitors for HRM Guide

July 17 2018 - According to Oxford Economics there are 4.8 million family businesses in the UK, thus family businesses play a pivotal role to the UK economy. However, despite the popularity of family businesses, family dynamics in business can be challenging to manage but this does not mean success is not possible, for example global sportswear brand Nike started as a father and son business. Therefore once you have established strong working relationships in your family business the possibilities are endless! Here Brookman Solicitors reveal the seven tips to successful working relationships in a family business based on a recent relationship survey of over 1000 individuals*.

Be aware of your bad habits!

Brookman Solicitor's survey interestingly revealed the top most annoying habits in relationships that you must guarantee you combat if you operate a family business. These include family member's failing to pull their weight, talking too much, failing to communicate, an inability to manage money, selfishness and spending too much time on technology, to name just a few. If these sound familiar, you are not alone, working in close proximity with loved ones, day in day out, can test any relationship! However the first steps to overcoming any issues is to acknowledge your bad habits then you are in the perfect position to start changing such behaviour, to help build and improve effective working relationships within your family business.

Put communication first

As mentioned above a failure to communicate can be a fundamental factor in deteriorating relationships, this can be applied to family businesses. A business will not survive without effective communication which is why it is so important to master. Arranging regular business meetings will help you put communication first, make sure to give everyone the opportunity to give their opinion and ask questions during these meetings, as you do not want any bad feelings escalating or a miscommunication wasting your business's time.

Don't display cases of favouritism

Often in family businesses you will also have employees who are not family, nevertheless everyone in your business, family or not, should be treated equally in order to avoid demotivation or tension between your workforce. Cases of favouritism will not go down well with other employees who may feel unappreciated or taken advantage of if another colleague is being treated favourably, with many assuming they are receiving such preferential treatment just because they are related to the owner and considered "family". Tensions can get heightened especially if they are having to pick up the extra work from a colleague not pulling their weight.

Build mutual respect and compromise

A lack of professionalism, such as heated disagreements, has led to the downfall of many family businesses! Respect is necessary as well as the ability to compromise, setting boundaries will prevent anyone failing to pull their weight and will remove the likelihood of selfishness impacting working relationships. Decisions need to be agreed upon by all involved in order to have the best chance of success, compromises may need to be made if necessary when a majority is not reached. It is important to remember to take time out from the business and talk about other things when not at work with your family to give all your brains a chance to relax and enjoy time with each other outside of the business.

Acknowledge each member's strengths & delegate appropriately

Families know each other like the back of their hand thus will know exactly what strengths and weaknesses everyone individually has. This advantage can be applied to a family business, for instance allocating clear responsibilities based on each family member's strengths will reap benefits for your business. Without clear communication and set job roles confusion is common and blurred lines between responsibilities may lead to tasks being left uncompleted or work duplicated. In today's fickle business world against big market players, as a family business you cannot waste your valuable time and money with mistakes that can be solved with simple and easy changes such as establishing clear roles and taking advantage of your strengths.

Put it in writing!

As mentioned family relationships in business can be a tricky process to manage which is why it is recommended to put any working contracts, expected working hours and responsibilities in writing. This way everyone will know what is required of them, who has what role, who owns what share of the business and so on, helping to prevent any miscommunication or conflict further down the line. As when the pressure is on, tensions can get heated thus having a legal document to refer back to may be a great solution to rectify any business issues or disputes.

Obtain an outsider's point of view

Sometimes when you are too involved in a situation it can be hard to have an objective view and this is often the case in family businesses. If you have a decision yet to be made or you are uncertain or disputing between each other what route to take with the business, an outsider's point of view may help reach a more balanced decision that is in the interests of the whole business not just suiting on individual's agenda in the family.

*The online survey was conducted with 1006 married individuals, based in the US, during April 2018. The couples were asked 10 questions relating to their marriage, relationship challenges, solutions, technology and how social media plays in relationship breakdown.

Brookman is a highly regarded specialist divorce and family law firm that advises clients in the UK and internationally. Brookman is ranked by the Legal 500 and has been awarded the Law Society's quality mark, Lexcel. For more information visit


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