Family-Owned Business: How to Work With and Manage Family Employe


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A resource for National Property Inspections and Global Property Inspections franchisees, aspiring entrepreneurs and real estate professionals.

Melisa Rana
Melisa Rana


Family-Owned Business: How to Work With and Manage Family Employees

 April 23, 2024 |  Business Tips |  hiring, training, inspection industry, small business, business growth

When entrepreneurs start a new business, they’re looking for ways to really hit the ground running and hasten their growth. In the inspection industry, that early grind can be difficult to navigate alone, which is why we constantly see family members step up to offer a helping hand. Whether it’s as a marketer, a bookkeeper, or another pair of hands on an inspection, it can be a great benefit to partner with a spouse, sibling, in-law, or child early on who can offer a bit more flexibility than a typical employee.

Family members can be an asset to businesses after seeing some growth as well, once extra help is needed to handle increased demand. Whatever the situation, the opportunity to hire family will likely come up at some point as a business owner, but some might not be prepared for the complex factors that go into this unique dynamic.

From the vantage point of home inspection franchisors, we’ve seen family members work extremely well as employees, and we’ve also seen situations where it hasn’t gone so well. If you’re thinking about starting or expanding your business with a family member, here are some things to consider so that you can manage that partnership to its full potential!

The Benefits of Working With Family

  • Unique Level of Trust and Room for Honesty
    The first clear benefit that comes from hiring a family member into your business is that the time required to build up that essential employer-employee trust can be much shorter. Team members should feel comfortable enough to deliver honest feedback, but often, people can feel like they’re walking on eggshells at a new job until they get their sea legs.
    One of the keys to a positive work culture is open communication between all team members, both the veterans and the rookies. Family members should have a head start on becoming comfortable with a healthy level of communication and could set an early standard for collaboration in a growing team. Trust and honesty are both essential for any team’s long-term health.
  • High Level of Understanding and Dedication
    Next, bringing a family member on the team usually means that their level of dedication, work ethic will be easy to understand early. Even when a business owner does their due diligence when hiring, asks the right questions during the interview process, and listens critically for the right answers, they won’t know how a new employee works until they start on the team. Prospects that seem to be a great fit might end up being a surprising culture clash, leading to a brand new search.
    Spouses, kids, and other family members should naturally want the business to succeed, and this tends to mean that they’ll put forth an amount of effort that goes above and beyond the typical employee. When it comes to personality dynamics, an extensive background that comes with being a family member usually means that you know which buttons to push, and which ones are off limits. Family members understand each other better than anyone else, and when channeled correctly, this can easily become a boon to a growing business.
  • Opportunity to Help Your Family and Yourself
    Finally, the unique fulfillment that comes from working with family should not be overlooked. Whether you’re working with your son or daughter and giving them one of their first work experiences, or you’ve hired a spouse or sibling into a business partnership, working together means navigating both the highs and lows. It’s important to identify your “why” to stay motivated. Having a family member who’s just as invested in the business can make that “why” easier to keep in mind.
    Note: If you do end up bringing a family member on board, consider advertising yourself as a “family-owned business!” This will make clients feel like they are investing in the community when working with you, and can go a long ways in making your business seem more approachable.

Potential Problems, and How to Avoid Them

  • Abusing the Relationship
    While there are plenty of benefits to hiring a family member, there can also be a tone of drawbacks if the new dynamic isn’t handled right. Firstly, this can take the form of an abuse of the relationship, from the employee or from the employer.
    From the business owner’s perspective, it can be easy to lean on the family member since they are willing to help out the business, but leading to them working longer hours, and putting in a ton of extra work without appropriate compensation. It’s important that every employee is fulfilled in their work, so take the time to consider whether this job lines up with the family member’s career goals. Do they want to be working in this position in the future? Do they enjoy their work?
    Just like with any other employee, one key to employee retention is by giving them room to grow. Family should be treated the same as any other employees, meaning treating them with the appropriate respect, making sure their goals align, and ensuring that they are happy and fulfilled in their position.
  • A Lack of Proper Boundaries
    In a similar vein, there can be a danger of crossing boundaries when family members come into the workplace. This jumps to the extreme particularly when you live under the same roof. As small business owners, it can be difficult to know exactly when you’re “off the clock,” and when this spreads to other family members, this can easily lead to a hectic, overworked atmosphere at home.
    To overcome this, it’s important to set appropriate boundaries. If you have an office space, clarify that work is only to be discussed at work. If you work out of home, outline particular times of the day when the work day is officially over so that everyone has room to unwind and recharge.
  • Tougher to Be Objective
    Finally, there is a serious danger when working with family of being objective. As a parent, sometimes it can be tough to see certain faults in your kids, or (conversely) it might be easy to overreact to mistakes that would not be as big of a deal if done by an unrelated employee. Employers should be careful not to show favoritism towards any of their employees, whether they are friends or if they are family.
    To avoid this, start by critically thinking through your family member’s background before hiring them. Are they actually qualified for the position? Do you really need to hire right now? If they aren’t a fit for the role, hiring them could lead to discontentment and resentment on both sides of the relationship.
    Before hiring any employment, it’s important to have a serious discussion about what happens if things don’t work out. This becomes even more crucial when dealing with family and wanting to preserve the personal relationship should the professional relationship not work out!
    Being the boss is always tough, but if you’re considering bringing a family member into your business in the near future, consider these words of caution and keep strategies in mind!

Insights from the VP
Before we leave you for today, we thought it might be a good idea to have your Vice President Chris Bates share some final thoughts. National Property Inspections, Inc. was started in 1987 by Chris’ father Roland Bates, and the two have spent a lot of time learning how to balance a working relationship with their father-son relationship. Here’s what Chris had to say about the subject:

“I worked for my father for roughly 10 years. It can be very rewarding, but very challenging at times. The biggest suggestion I can make is that you keep your family life and work life separate.

One thing that both he and I did at the office is refer to each other by our first names. Not as a show of any disrespect, just that we wanted to be seen as work colleagues, not father and son.

If you can keep that bit of distance, it can be very rewarding to work with a family member. However, just like any other work colleague, you must still treat each other with the same amount of respect.”

Thanks for sharing your insights, Chris! When it comes to balancing professionalism with a family-like atmosphere, no one does it better.

For more on business growth, marketing insights, and inspection industry news, keep right here on the Franchise Informant! If you’re interested in learning more about franchising with National Property Inspections, you can request a free info packet, or talk with our recruitment team directly.

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