Working with family members poses a unique challenge to any business. While it can be stressful, we know firsthand how productive and rewarding working with family can be. We know this firsthand as Jay and Mara are a father-daughter duo and partners in Shorr Solutions, a national practice management consulting company, and Robert has worked with his mother, the medical director of RenovoMD in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, as well as his brother, in the management of the practice.
One thing is for certain, working with family has the potential to both expose underlying issues in your personal relationships and bring out the best in you and your team. This unique challenge comes with bringing on a team member you already know so much about. Both positive and negative, you share a wealth of experiences with this individual, and often personal feelings will cross over into your business relationship. At times you may find yourself being overly lax or even hypercritical of this relative. It is important to set boundaries and clear expectations to make sure the work relationship stays productive and the personal relationship remains on good terms. Keeping communication open and honest, clearly defining expectations, and maintaining a good work and life balance goes a long way in ensuring a productive work environment.
ESTABLISH STRONG COMMUNICATION
Working with team members, in general, can be stressful, but working with the family poses a unique challenge. Communication is key and business relationships can be strained and fall apart quickly if everyone is not clear in their role. Miscommunication leads to misunderstandings which leads to conflict within the company. Make sure the company’s goals and individual responsibilities are clearly defined. Discuss what the company wants to achieve and outline the roles everyone must play in order to make that happen. Most importantly, make sure the company’s mission and goals and those of the individual are aligned. Having a good understanding of this helps everyone work more effectively.
KNOW EACH PERSON’S ROLE
Organization charts establish a hierarchy and boundaries in the practice. Having a formal organization chart will also help maximize efficiency. Businesses, especially family businesses, do not run smoothly when everyone is stepping on each other’s toes. Discuss and outline how company decisions will be made and who is allowed to make them. Make sure that it is known whether or not one person has the final say. The nature of your business and the relationship between the team members will assist you in making these decisions, and having this structure in place will keep the entire office on task and efficient. For example, one person may have a final say when it comes to marketing, while another may have a final say when it comes to expenses.
PUT EXPECTATION IN WRITING
Make sure each staff member, related or not, has a role clearly defined with a job description. Not only will a job description outline who does what, but it will also outline what is expected. Responsibilities need to be completely and clearly described, so focus can be directed where appropriate. Often times with a family business, formalities tend to fall by the wayside, but when this happen, one person will inevitably feel they’re being taken advantage of or doing more than their fair share. It is important that these are written out and reviewed together to help each staff member stay on task. Another thing to keep in mind when writing a job description, make sure details such as salary and benefits are clearly outlined, although these should not be made public to the rest of the staff. Having this in advance and in writing will eliminate the threat of disputes later.
It is vitally important that all negotiations and contracts are collected in writing. When working with family, companies have a tendency to operate under informal agreements. Should issues arise, they are left in a precarious situation with nothing to refer back to. Having formal documentation prevents any miscommunication and gives the company something to fall back on. This goes for business agreements between the practice, medical spa and spa, and each employee relationship, as well as if you’re using other family businesses as vendors. For example, if a family member owns a floral company, laundry service, or cleaning company, all agreements should be put into writing, even if services are done in trade. It’s important to note that this should occur no matter what, but again, we find formalities tend to drop off with family members.
LEAVE WORK AT WORK AND HOME AT HOME
As family, there may be some crossover between work life and home life, but it is important to maintain a professional tone at all times within the workplace. While you may already have an existing relationship with coworkers, it is important to maintain those boundaries. Be mindful of the difference between work issues and home issues. Remember that there are different approaches to an issue as a family member versus a coworker. If possible, try to leave work discussions for the office and personal conversations at home. We always say that family relationships always come first – we’ll always love our family, even if we sometimes don’t agree with them as co-workers, bosses, or partners.
When working with family, it may be difficult to draw a line between where work ends and where your personal life begins. Because these things are so intertwined, the day-to-day demands of the office may put a strain on your home life. As a coworker, your family must respect your time away from the office as much as they respect your ability to be a productive team member during office hours.
INTEGRITY IS KEY
Fostering trust between members of the family and all members of the business are vital. It should go without saying to always work with integrity and back up your words with actions. Because it is a family business it does not entitle certain people to take certain liberties and this must be made clear from the start. As a family member, there is a large target painted on your back and your daily performance will be under increased scrutiny. Show co-workers you are dedicated to the company and can perform at a high level. Remove all doubt that you are in your position because you are the best person for the job and that your hiring was not based on nepotism. Fostering strong relationships with non-related coworkers is as important as maintaining familial relationships.
Encourage co-workers and give them the praise they deserve. Be attentive to their needs. Many times, they may feel like a family member is pushing them out. Remind, and more importantly show, fellow staff member that everyone is a valued member of the team, regardless of who they are related to. Respecting the feelings of your co-workers will thought not completed?
In any family business, it is extremely important to not let personal feelings come into the workplace. Maintaining a professional atmosphere is a priority. You can’t let work place drama come home with you and vice versa. Be open and honest about your thoughts and address any issues that may arise up front. Letting issues sit and fester may lead to an explosion later on that may damage your relationship. You already know your family co-workers. You understand what makes them tick and (especially in the case of siblings) what buttons to push in order to annoy them. This insight might make it difficult to be rational with your thought and feelings. Don’t let emotions get in the way of your professional relationship. Disagreements will happen, but you don’t want them to affect your business or your relationship. Your behaviors and attitudes also have an impact on other co-workers, so pay attention to how any dispute would affect them. Save the heated personal discussions for outside of business hours. It is important to remember that you are co-workers during operating hours, but you’re family forever.
Jay A. Shorr, BA, MBM-C, CAC I-XIV is the founder and managing partner of Shorr Solutions, a Florida-based medical practice consulting firm assisting practices with their operational, administrative, and financial health. He served as the vice president of operations and practice administrator for a leading board-certified dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon and held partnerships in two leading South Florida plastic surgery centers. Shorr has served as a professional motivational speaker for nearly a dozen industry organizations. He is a certified medical business manager (CMBM) from Florida Atlantic University, a certified aesthetic consultant (Levels I-XIV) at The Aesthetic Show and The Aesthetic Academy, and a member of The Aesthetic Show’s 2019 Scientific Advisory Board.
Mara Shorr, BS, CAC II-XIV, is a partner and vice president of marketing and business development for Shorr Solutions, bringing more than a decade of marketing and communications experience to Shorr Solutions’ clients. She is a Level II through XIV certified aesthetic consultant utilizing knowledge and skills from her previous positions in marketing for two separate leading dermatology, cosmetic, and plastic surgery practices located in South Florida. Focusing on both internal and client strategies in traditional and new media, she is a public speaker and has written for a number of industry publications.