Having trouble recruiting for your small business? Not sure where to find workers? Well, as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz might have said, “There’s no place like home. There is no place like home. Perhaps the best people to hire are your own family.
Whether because of the “Great Recession” or the “Great Retreat,” according to one Verizon investigation, 60% of small businesses struggled to fill vacancies. Graduation and summer are approaching, and many family members may be ripe for employment.
There are many good reasons to work with family members. You trust them (usually). You know what their skills and talents are (more or less). They are easier to recruit than foreigners (especially).
There are also tons of traps. If you still want to talk to each other (without swearing) when the holidays roll around, keep in mind these eight keys to successful working with family members.
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1. Develop clear job descriptions
In a small business, everyone usually wears many hats. It’s always a good idea to make sure you specify everyone’s primary role – whether it’s sales, administration, financial management, whatever. If you’re trying to groom the next generation, you might want to rotate jobs from time to time, but give each person an area of responsibility, job description, and title.
2. Be clear about working hours
Your husband has to pick up the kids at 3:00 p.m.? Do you do yoga four days a week at 10 a.m.? Your brother-in-law is going to take a month off for his annual fishing trip? One of the advantages of working as a family is the possibility of having flexibility, especially when it comes to working hours and vacations. To avoid resentment, discuss working hours and holidays BEFORE you start working together.
3. Agree on the salary
Money is always a touchy subject, especially between loved ones. NOT talking clearly and definitively about compensation with a family member who works with you is a sure way to create an untenable working relationship and possibly lifelong tension. Discuss compensation well before you start working together. Be clear about when salaries and bonuses can be renegotiated.
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4. Put it in writing
Whatever the job description, whatever the hours, whatever the salary, make sure everyone understands. The best way to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts? Put these decisions in writing.
5. Discuss where you will be working
Are you sure you want to work from home with your spouse? Really? That’s a lot of unity. Can you really share an office with your brother, your son, your mother for 40 hours a week? Sometimes the best way to work with a family member is to have at least a little “social distancing” at work.
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6. Decide how you will make decisions
Having a clear and fair decision-making process avoids a lot of arguments and bad feelings among family members. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to make all decisions by consensus or vote – as the owner, you may want to keep all crucial decisions yourself. Just be clear about the kinds of decisions others can make, and then let them make them.
7. Determine how you will give feedback
This is where working with a family member gets really tricky. If your son resents you telling him to tidy up his room at home, he won’t appreciate you telling him how to improve at work. As soon as a family member comes on board, let them know that there will be a performance review after the first 30 days and every six months thereafter. Be objective and constructive – not judgmental. Do it at the office, not at home. And leave anything that happened outside of the office out of performance reviews.
8. Keep family dynamics out of the workplace and workplace dynamics out of the home
Stay professional when you walk through the office door. If you are the parent, listen to your children’s ideas. If you are the child, don’t consider your parents’ ideas as old-fashioned. Try not to bring old negative patterns of family interaction into the workplace, and when you’re home or at family gatherings, try not to talk too much about work.