5 rules for building a successful family business (and keeping your relationship intact along the way).
In a small town like St. Francisville, the majority of small businesses are family-owned and operated, from beloved West Fel institutions like Audubon Market and Magnolia Café, to longtime local landmarks including The Myrtles and St. Francisville Inn.
Bank of St. Francisville’s mission is to serve our community through investment, and by extension, helping families build their legacy. President and CEO Carter Leak IV understands the value of inheriting this first-hand. In 2014, he returned home with his family to help lead BSF—the business his father, Carter Leak III, started in 1978.
“The ability to make a difference in this community by forging new relationships and maintaining existing ones within this profession has been priceless,” says Carter. “It’s been a gift, one I would love for my kids to experience in a similar way.”
Sounds great, right? But before you embark on an entrepreneurial enterprise with your loved one—whether it be a spouse, sibling, or relative—follow these five rules of thumb to ensure you’re set up for success.
- You’re both ready and on the same page long-term. To start with your best foot forward, you and your business partner should be as transparent as possible about your goals and expectations; think big picture. Use this starting point as an opportunity to create a cohesive business plan together, so you’re both on the same page.
- Define your individual strengths and use them to your advantage. By understanding your personality types, as well as each of your strengths and weaknesses, you can manage the areas of the business you’re best suited for and delegate tasks accordingly. For example, at El Mejor Bar & Grill—owned by husband-and-wife duo Omar and Josefina Coronel—Omar runs the kitchen, while Josefina manages all front-of-house operations. “So we complement each other,” Josefina says. “He's a great chef, and I'm really good “outside” as I call it, serving and interacting with guests, making sure things are running smoothly up front.”
- Stick to set boundaries. Maintaining these clearly-defined rules of operation and trusting each other’s management capabilities is what will enable your professional relationship to work at its best. That said, communication is key for those boundaries to work, and how you communicate matters just as much as what you’re communicating. Approach discussions with constructive criticism and potential solutions. Or, have a monthly check-in meeting where together you can review your business performance, brainstorm new ideas, and adjust workflow as needed.
- Separate the personal from the professional. The most important rule for your business (and relationship) to flourish is keeping a healthy work-life balance. Decide ahead of time how you and your family member(s) will handle this, so that your personal relationship doesn’t become purely about business. That can look like agreeing not to bring work talk home, maintaining separate offices, and leaving personal matters outside the business’s front doors.
- Bring in a third party if necessary. Involving a trusted third party can be greatly beneficial for your business, whether they be an outside mediator who can function as a tiebreaker, or a veteran entrepreneur who can act as a mentor or business coach. This third person may also possess skills that will be helpful in other areas of the business, thereby relieving some of the pressure.
Interested in learning about other family businesses BSF has been a part of, including popular retail newcomers like Vintage Hive, District Mercantile, and Away Down South? Click here to read more. To get more local success stories like these in your inbox, sign up for our monthly e-newsletter here.