"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!"
--Michael Corleone in The Godfather: Part III.
As we discussed in the last post, working with your child can be great or it can end in disaster. To maximize your chances for the former, ask yourself:
Are you and your child on good terms? If it isn’t working out at home, then it’s not going to work in business. According to Larry Colin, co-author of "Family, Inc.: How to Manage Siblings, Spouses, Children and In-Laws in the Family Business," this is particularly true in a family-owned business, where "money, blood and power" all intertwine.
Have you explained there are no special privileges? “If you become your child's direct boss, then promotions or salary increases have to be the result of merit, rather than a shared last name,” says Drew Mendoza, managing principal of the Family Business Consulting Group. “Emphasize that as your employee, he or she will be held accountable."
Have you put it in writing? “What I’ve learned from working with family,” says Thursday Bram of Hyper Modern Consulting, “ is that you have to write down everything: pay rates to responsibilities. You don't want to think of anyone as having a flexible memory when it comes to money, but family members seem to be particularly susceptible to that problem.”
Could your reputation be damaged if it doesn't pan out? “If you work in a corporation and your son or daughter turns out to be a first-rate employee under your tutelage, then you'll look great for picking such prime personnel,” Mendoza notes. But if not, "You certainly don't want to put yourself in the position of having to defend your son or daughter's poor work habits to your boss.”
Are you sensitive to other employees’ feelings? Are you ready for charges of nepotism? Promoting your child to the company's high command may irk colleagues who have worked there for years. "If your kid's not stellar, you're going to have that label," says Larry Colin. “The other employees will just be waiting for the ‘royalty factor’ to kick in at promotion time.”
Can you delegate discipline? At the first sign of a mistake, your parental instinct may be to reprimand your child. Coming from you, the criticism may not be taken as "clean" or "objective," says Larry Colin. If you can, have an experienced peer who holds the same position or another supervisor hand down the critique. “That makes it less accusatory and better received," he says.
Are you making time for each other outside of work? One young entrepreneur urges, “Create no-shop-talk zones. Otherwise, you will get sucked into always talking business—and 99% of the time it’s about the negatives and problems. Instead, find an activity in which you can just enjoy each other, which for my father and me is fishing.”
- Are you clear about who has the last word? Linda Collinson, a successful entrepreneur who joined her son in Infusion Sciences, said it can be a challenge to be in a subordinate position at work when you’ve been in a superior position at home. “You may think your child is making a poor decision, but you have to respect his opinion. Sometimes that means I have to keep my mouth shut, which is hard because I’m a Type A personality. But you have to understand who has the final say.”
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