My daughters, a.k.a. the "interns," have asked if they can run my public relations business after I've "built it into an empire." On one hand, they think big, and I like that. On the other hand, they're 11 and 8 and have their entire lives to do anything and everything. A more realistic future reality might be my husband -- also a journalist turned corporate communications pro -- joining me in the PR biz. Heck, his name is already on it.
Anyhow, this leads me to a recent conversation I had with Tabatha Coffey, hair stylist and salon owner, family business coach, and host of Bravo TV's "Relative Success with Tabatha," which premiers tonight.
"When it's family, all business is personal," says Coffey in the trailer for her new series.
I spoke with Coffey, who is known for her platinum blonde pixie cut and tell-it-like-it-is blunt personality, about what it takes to build and sustain a family business for the generations.
"It's natural to want to go into business with your family, because you trust them and they have your back," she told me. "But the big lesson is learning to deal with all of the rubbish."
How exactly do you do that? I asked for her top three tips, and in one way or another, they all come down to communication, communication, communication.
1. Communicate well and often.
You have to communicate internally as a business would communicate internally. That means having regular, planned staff meetings, because sometimes family dinner should just be family dinner.
Perhaps most importantly, this means talking about and writing out roles and responsibilities, so that each family member understands what is expected, take ownership and is held accountable. In every business, team members do better when they know what is expected. Companies fare better, too, Coffey said.
Another reason you will want to have clear roles and responsibilities is the business is going to grow as your family grows. It will be easier to deploy members of younger generations if you know what everyone is doing and who's ready for a new challenge. Otherwise, it could feel like too many cooks in the proverbial kitchen.
2. Let people play into their strengths.
Again, this is where communicating is important. Discuss which roles you can cover internally with skilled, knowledgeable family members who dig that particular work. "That ownership is a really key part to a family business being a success," Coffey said. Realize that you might have to hire for roles that your family members are not suited to fill. You can't make someone love in-person sales any more than you can force a non-numbers person into accounting.
3. Realize that not everyone will want to be involved in the family business, and that's okay.
If you don't want to be in the family business, you have to be honest about that. Otherwise, you're not being helpful to the venture that your loved ones are pouring themselves into. From the other side, you have to understand that the business might not be right for every family member. You are stronger together only if the business is right for each and every one of you.
And here's a bonus tip: "Realize with a family business, you will always be family."