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Do you run a company with your spouse, siblings or children? We explore how to maintain a balance between business and family

Family businesses have every chance of being successful, but boundaries have to be put in place.

Being able to switch off and separate your work and your personal life is an act that many find hard to turn from theory into practice, especially those who own their own business. Lines can often become blurred and working outside office hours can become part of the everyday routine. Research conducted by Haines Watts among 500 UK SMEs shows that all too often that’s true.

Business owners face many pressures from maintaining a line in the sand between their business and private lives, to the impact on family and relationships.

Keeping it in the family

The research showed that three out of four business owners are actively blurring the line.

This significant majority say that their spouse also works in their business or has no other form of income. Although there are no doubt often positive effects, this can put a lot of pressure on one individual family, both financially and mentally.

Keeping it in the family can often seem like a safe way to grow a business, but it can also make managing certain situations increasingly difficult later on down the line. As family-run businesses are also commonly formed by siblings or parents and children, issues can arise as the business moves through the generations in terms of shares, succession and the age-old dilemma between business acumen and birthright.model which will successfully work without your spouse’s involvement, will allow you to step away from your business”

When setting up a business, it is important to consider an additional management layer so that all the weight does not rest on your shoulders. Creating a model which will successfully work without you and/or your spouse’s involvement, at least for a short time, will allow you to step away from your business and take the time you need to achieve a healthy balance.

Be the driver, not the engine

This elusive balance is clearly difficult to achieve, two thirds (67 per cent) of business owners say they have worked while on holiday, and slightly more (69 per cent) report also having worked on weekends.

It’s not entirely surprising when you take into consideration that when a family member also works in the business it is inevitable that ‘co-workers’ will take the same time off work to go on holiday.

But having time to switch off and step away is crucial for your own health, as well as the health of your business. Families need to encourage this behaviour, rather than bringing work home and letting it dominate the conversation in all environments. Setting rules for yourself, such as leaving your work phone in the car will help you to disengage and separate your two worlds.

As we move through the generations, people are getting better at ensuring that neither bucket bubbles over into the other. But handing over the reins and trusting the team you have in place is often hard, especially if you find yourself thinking that they might not be able to do things quite as well as you can yourself.

While in some cases this may be true, denying your team the opportunity to learn and grow will hold your business back in the long run. It may be difficult to accept, but even if the work done by others is not 100 per cent how you would have done it, passing it on gives you the opportunity to focus on larger issues, such as the strategy and direction of the company.

At the same time, your team benefits from new developmental opportunities that will drive the business forward in the future.

Internal advisers

Even if your spouse or another family member doesn’t work directly in the business, they are likely still be impacted by it. A quarter of business owners say that they seek support first from their family about decisions linked to their business. While family should be viewed as a vital source of support to your business, it should not be the sole or principal layer.

Discussing stressors and concerns with family members can be very positive and they will certainly have a valuable input. However, there is no substitute for an impartial voice of reason, which can only truly come from an external party. An outsider can ask objective questions that you might have not thought about or challenge the way you do things in a way that you might not have considered.

Clarity of thought from those who aren’t as close as family helps to ensure the right decisions are made. As well as having a strong management team, a strong network of professionals that can provide you with sound advice is an extremely valuable asset for your business.

Business owners need to be able to successfully separate the personal from the professional, no matter what relationships may be involved in the business.

The internal dialogue and battle of a business owner can seem overwhelming at times, but the support of your family is not, and should not, be the only network you seek out for advice, clarity or direction.

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About the author

David Fort

David specialises in advising expanding owner-managed businesses and offering bespoke services to company directors as their businesses develop, particularly in areas of wealth creation and asset protection. Having worked as an FD for a company that grew very rapidly, David also has practical experience.  David deals with companies starting up to those that are well established and who may just need a guiding hand with strategic and operational matters.

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