Family business

Tips for making working with family easier
Naomi Szeben
May 02, 2019
Written by
Video courtesy of Naomi Szeben and YouTube
Working with family doesn’t have to mean sacrificing family relationships or your time.
Working with family doesn’t have to mean sacrificing family relationships or your time. Photo: Adobe Stock
At the best of times, managing co-workers and dealing with conflict between staff members can be challenging.  What can a business owner do to smooth out business dynamics when the staff is a relative? The International Pizza Expo had recently explored some slices of life (see what I did, there?) with their panel discussion on working with your family.

On Tuesday, March 5, Pasquale Di Diana, co-owner of Bacci’s Pizzerias, led a panel discussion to illustrate how it is possible to run a business while keeping your family intact. Di Diana’s wife, Giovanna joined him on the panel, as well as the husband-and-wife team Eric and Melissa Rickman, co-owners of Wholly Stromboli.

The four business owners hashed out their techniques for coping with stress, gave some conflict resolution tips and shared their challenges with the audience. Bakers Journal shares their advice with readers.

Support each other emotionally
The advantage to working with a spouse or parent might be constant emotional support. However, know that their advice is coming from a loving place, and Melissa Rickman suggests that you not take advice personally.

Discuss what brought the two of you together in this business venture. Have your family member discuss what they want do in the company and how they hope to contribute.  “It’s hard to turn off personal feelings,” confessed Melissa.

Don’t bring your work home
It can be tempting to tell your spouse or sibling that you’ll “talk about it later,” but any work-related issue has to be dealt with professionally, and as soon as possible. As you would with other staff members, don’t discipline or argue with them in front of other staff members.

Don’t talk about your family problems with other staff members: They are not your therapists, and Giovanna Di Diana wisely adds, “If you talk about your family like that, they’ll wonder what you say about them behind their backs.” Conflict can be gossip-fodder: Don’t feed the rumour mill with your squabbles.

Find a neutral zone
Pasquale Di Diana recommends finding a place that is neither home nor the pizza place to talk shop. For any work-related issue, they opt for their favourite taco place for an informal but needed “time-out” to talk shop.

Above all, don’t bring your work to family functions. In a later session, Mike Bausch, owner of Andolini’s Pizza stated it could be tough if a family member uses personal anecdotes as leverage in the business. If his brother brought up any embarrassing story in the shop, it made the daily interactions awkward, and family socials worse. “Emotions are always involved,” added Melissa
Rickman. It is crucial to understand the roles each family member plays in the business.

Outline the duties
Both couples said their skill sets complimented the other’s. Where Melissa presents the creative side of the business, Eric brings level-headed business savvy to the table. “I don’t think it would have worked out as well if we were both creative, or if we both were number crunchers,” he admitted.

From the start of your family business venture, set out clear job descriptions and related tasks. If a shift is missed or task done incorrectly, make sure that other staff members know that there isn’t any preferencial treatment given to family members.

“If you’re both not on the same page before you start the business, it’s going to get worse when you start; as the business goes on, other problems are going to be exposed.”  Eric Rickman added. “It can be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do, or it can be the best thing you’ll ever do. It all starts with the relationship at the beginning.”

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