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5 Tips for Running Your Family-Owned Construction Business

Do you run a family-owned construction business? While having members of your own family work for you has several benefits, it also comes with its own unique challenges. In addition to managing employees who aren’t part of your family, you may have to handle family conflicts at work. What’s more, you’ll probably need to choose a younger family member to take your place when you retire. Here are five basic tips for running a family-owned construction business and avoiding common problems:

Let Family Members Participate in Selecting Their Positions

When you run a family business, you don’t want to be a dictator. For example, when picking family members for various positions, why not give them an opportunity to choose their roles and define their job descriptions. Use your business website to state and explain their roles. Usually, this is done on a business website’s “about” page.

Create a Clear Plan for Settling Disputes

Conflicts that occur in any business can be difficult, but disagreements can be even more frustrating when they involve members of the same household. Unlike coworkers who aren’t related to you, you have to live with members of your family or at least see them regularly. One way to prevent disputes from getting out of hand is by drawing up an agreement that everyone signs, stating that all conflicts are to be resolved by arbitration or mediation and never by litigation.

Practice Good Communication Skills

A huge way to avoid conflicts is by communicating properly. This is even more needed when you operate a family-owned business. If you see a situation in which a family member is angry at another family member, don’t let it escalate. Carve out a safe place where the conflicting parties can talk. Most importantly, do not involve other employees who aren’t in your family.

Don’t Show Partiality to Family Members

One of the most important tips is to hold everyone in your family-owned construction business to the same basic company standards, values and policies. This means you should never show partiality to family members.

When you prefer your own family members over your other employees, you’re creating a negative workplace environment where envy can develop and hurt your business. Showing favoritism to a family member who’s also your employee can affect your business’s reputation and integrity. As a result, people won’t want to do business with you.

Establish Boundaries Between Work and Family Time

If you run your construction business from home, it’s essential you establish boundaries, such as setting definite business hours. Some families with home businesses don’t know when to put up the “Closed for the Day” sign.  Just because you work at home and have family members as part of your team doesn’t mean you can “burn the candle at both ends.” When it’s time to call it quits for the day, close your business and focus on your family life. Otherwise, you and your employees will suffer from burnout.

Other Considerations and Warnings

  • If you intend to “hand over the baton” to an adult child, start making your exit plan several years before you retire.
  • Watch out for any divisiveness in your family and business, remembering that your construction company should be viewed as a united front.
  • When important decisions must be made that can affect your entire family, be sure all your family members are allowed to share their input and have a say in a decision.
  • Spouses should especially have a voice in major decisions, even if they’re not on the company payroll. Consider how a husband or wife can see matters from a different perspective, as an outsider.
  • If your family business involves at least two generations, consider yourself fortunate. You can benefit from the wisdom and experience of the oldest generation, while at the same time, learn how millennials think from the youngest family members.
  • Be aware of the unique strengths of each family member on your team and don’t forget to point them out as this can promote self-confidence.
  • Challenge family members to set future goals, such as asking where they see themselves in five or ten years.
  • Have monthly or quarterly meetings where everyone shares some of their projects and main goals they’re working to achieve. This helps in making your employees feel more valued.
  • Never take your family employees for granted and find ways to make them feel more appreciated.

Hiring a PEO (Professional Employer Organization) can free you from many of the burdensome jobs you have to do as a business owner. Please contact us at Harbor America for a free consultation and learn more about our wide range of services for construction companies and other blue-collar fields.