When it comes to the delicate matters of family business -- like turning a niece or nephew down for a job -- typical company rule books don't offer much solace. But J. W. Kisling, CEO of Multiplex Co., a Ballwin, Mo., beverage-dispenser manufacturer with more than 200 employees, rests easy knowing that the family consensus statement is on relatives' desks at the office.

The document isn't legally binding, but it does answer commonly asked questions about executive and director qualifications, pay scales, retirement ages, and employ-ment opportunities before they get to Kisling's office. Thanks to the inclusion of some entertaining family history, the consensus statement has enjoyed a friendly reception.

While a few of the 22 family stockholders refused to sign off on the first draft, the objections raised were easily remedied. Has it been used? "To my great surprise, nieces and nephews can cite it. It was definitely worth the trouble," says Kisling.