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If a Family Business Seeks Improvement, Where Should It Start?

To work at peak levels, family businesses should focus on three distinct areas: accountability, behavioral ground rules, and planning.

Accountability. Everyone in the organization—family member, longtime friend, or unrelated party—must be held accountable for his or her job performance. A telling question to ask: "If we were seeking to fill this position today, would ______ be the best person for this particular job?"

Ground Rules. The company should set up sound behavioral ground rules such as:

We won’t air personal conflicts in public or in the office.

We won’t allow the family to have personal use of company resources.

We’ll meet regularly as a group to discuss business and interpersonal issues.

We’ll support each other to other family members, employees, business associates, and the outside community.

Planning. Setting clear mission statements, strategies, and objectives helps guide behaviors and decisions in the company. Planning can eliminate conflicts that arise from misunderstandings and an unclear purpose. The depth and extent of the planning determines the company’s level of success in providing business profits and harmonious agreement in family matters.

Wayne Rivers

Family Business Institute

Raleigh, N.C.

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