We Are Sunshine

Managing in a Family Business

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

By Ashley Laabs

Tanning salons, like many small businesses, face a unique challenge: managing family members. In a Smart Tan poll, 42 percent of salons said that one or more of their employees are family. Overseeing the day-to-day activities of your staff can be difficult enough without having to factor in the fact that your brother always feels like you’re lecturing him and your mom sure isn’t going to let you tell her what to do!

Dealing with family dynamics in the workplace adds intensity to sensitive situations, but your bonds with them may also prove a helpful advantage. Here are some tips to help you navigate the ominous task of being boss and blood:

Create Boundaries

Knowing where to draw the line in the sand can prevent a lot of discomfort and resentment down the road. When you’re working in the business, keep the focus on business. Family disputes and issues should be handled outside the workplace, but work related disputes shouldn’t be put off for personal time. If you want to successfully compartmentalize the aspects of your relationship, you can’t put off hard conversations.

Although it’s impossible to completely forget your familial ties, it’s important to be clear about decision-making and power in a business. Who is the boss? When it comes to your livelihood, it’s not wise to let age impair your judgment. Your employee structure should make it clear where they fit in the business.

Maintain Standards

It’s easy for non-family employees to think that your family is getting special treatment, which can seriously deflate morale. Make your expectations and standards clear to everyone and enforce them fairly. Your family may report to you, but the entire team relies on them to do their job. Allowing your standards to slide is the first step down a slippery slope.

Clear expectations also make raises and promotions easier. Nepotism and favoritism are non-issues when all of your employees are treated and evaluated equally. By creating company-wide standards that are concrete and measurable, it becomes easier to quantify and qualify why a person is deserving of any reward or punishment. Promoting a fair, objective disposition will earn respect from all of your employees.

Pick the Right Position

You can have the most intelligent employee in the world, but if they will still fall short if placed in the wrong spot on your team. Many business owners see this with outside hires, but fail to dodge the mistake with family.

It can be tempting to bring a family member onto the team when they really need a job or you really need some help, but hasty decisions can lead to more harm than good. It may be uncomfortable to require formalities from someone you have known your whole life, but your personal relationship won’t necessarily give you an idea of what their professional strengths are. Introduce them to various parts of the business to see what their aptitudes and interests are. Of course family is there to support each other, but the true gift in this situation is to give someone the opportunity to succeed.

Acknowledge Your Bond

One of the most difficult aspects of hiring someone new is the lack of knowledge. Typically, you entrust expensive equipment, all of your inventory and every client interaction to a couple people you never knew before you hired them. In this scenario, family can be a huge advantage, especially for salon owners who are stepping away from their business for the first time.

If nothing else, you can feel a sense of relief that you can hire someone familiar and worthy of your trust. It’s more than a job that’s on the line: The vitality of your relationship as family also depends on how well you treat each other in the workplace. If your relationship is good before you bring them into the business, family members can be the extra set of eyes and ears you need when things get rough.

Whether it’s your dad or your third cousin, bringing family into the business can be difficult and rewarding. For the best results, have these conversations ahead of time so they know just what they’re getting into.