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5 Steps – November 7, 2019

5 Steps to Leveraging the Power of Siblings in the Family Business

Illustration by Kimberlie Clinthorne-Wong
Laurie Foster says the inherent trust among siblings in a family business can create a formidable competitive advantage. For some people, working with your sibling flows naturally; in other cases, it takes a lot of work. She offers these five ways to capitalize on your sibling relationships to drive family business success.

1. Keep the business all business. Work with your siblings and define the business goals you all feel are achievable and that you all are passionate about. Define the steps you will take to get there. Document the rules and the roles each will take. Documents like job descriptions, employment agreements, shareholder agreements, a family constitution and the like will create clarity and foster accountability for you and your siblings.

2. Keep the family all family.

Work hard at the family relationship. Holding onto difficult business dynamics within the family setting can destroy relationships. Have a plan for keeping the family family, including keeping the business out of Sunday dinners, family trips, long walks and other family time. Remember you have two distinct systems working at the same time, the family system and the business system.

3. Leverage your strengths. Competencies and behavior styles differ among siblings. Capitalize on these differences and be comfortable with what your siblings are good at. The combined strengths of a sibling team are hard to beat as long as there are no rivalry issues.

4. Force the tough conversations. Spouse issues, company downturns and unforeseen circumstances can create difficult situations. Siblings often hold back for the sake of the family bond. Avoiding the tough conversations is a bad plan. Communicate – even over communicate – especially when things get uncomfortable.

5. Embrace the nonfamily team.

Key employees often feel isolated from the intimacy of the family bond. Go overboard in including nonfamily members in key discussions and decisions. They have an “outside” perspective that may prove invaluable.

A strong, high-performing sibling team can be unbeatable in growing the family business. The icing on the cake is a family legacy and business longevity for all to be proud of.

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