Franchising with your family: Tips for managing business and family relationships


One of the benefits of purchasing a franchise is that you are building an asset for your family. However, it also means that they are likely to stay closely involved. Many franchisees find that working with family members is part-and-parcel of running their own business.

Working with family can be a successful way to secure trusted employees – after all, they are personally invested in seeing the business thrive. Unfortunately, for many families it can end in tears, placing stress on relationships both inside and outside the business.

Here are six key tips for keeping your family and your business on track:

1. Establish clear roles, responsibilities and management structure

Ensure that everyone in the business – family or otherwise – has a clear job description and understanding of their role. This will ensure that everyone is focused on what they need to do to make the business operate smoothly.

2. Ensure consistency and fairness

It’s important that employees are treated fairly to maximise employee engagement. Paying all employees, including family members, at award rates, for example, will ensure that there is no room for hostility or frustration.

3. Seek outside advice

If family members are divided on a business decision, seek independent, third-party advice from a professional. This may be a business coach, marketing consultant, accountant or solicitor. The important thing is that they are independent. They can remove themselves from the emotion and help to guide your business decisions with accuracy and impartiality.

4. Keep family dynamics and situations out of work

Avoid bringing a personal issue to work. It can be hard to work with someone that you’ve had a disagreement with over the mortgage or kids’ report cards, but by keeping personal issues separate from business issues, you can prevent personal feelings impacting business matters.

5. Maintain clear, regular and efficient communication

If there is business to discuss, don’t bring it up on Sunday morning over brunch. As with any employee or business partnership, schedule proper meetings to discuss critical issues such as performance or operations. Keep notes and minutes to ensure that everyone is on track and on the same page.

6. Establish a succession plan

Make sure that there is a clear line of succession for the future of the business. This will help all family members to understand their roles and plan for the future in the business or beyond.

What happens when a family member is underperforming in their role?

First of all, it is essential that the family member is treated the same as any other employee. Yes, they are family at home, but at work, they are a business employee. This will help you to stay impartial and deal with the situation in a professional manner. 

Ideally, you wouldn’t want any of your staff to reach the point of being fired for underperformance – family or otherwise. Rather, you should ensure that every staff member is set up for success, via:

  • Successful onboarding to ensure that the business mission, values and goals are understood.
  • Adequate training so tasks can be completed.
  • A clear position description, including any expectations of sales targets or specific tasks, to ensure all employees are clear on what they need to be undertaking or achieving.
  • Regular performance reviews that examine any gaps and set plans in place such as training or coaching to help improve performance.

If, despite this, there are still problems with the family member’s performance, it’s important to take action.

There is no doubt that letting go an employee is tough, especially when they are family. It can be tempting to consider ‘carrying’ them for the sake of harmony, but this is not a healthy or smart approach. After all, they are costing your business time and money, and letting others down – including your clients. It is also easy for resentment to build among the rest of the staff, who may be experiencing the added stress of trying to compensate or cover for the underperforming employee.

Effectively, the family member has disengaged from the business and the foundations of healthy relationships (confidence, respect and trust) are no longer intact. The reality is that this situation requires leadership, and as the business leader you must take the responsibility to call it out and move the employee on with dignity and respect – as a leader would do with any employee.

Franchising specialist FC Business Solutions provides a variety of bespoke franchise solutions for franchisors and franchisees of all sizes.

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