Every business is a family business.
To ignore this truth is to court disaster.
Now, maybe you think I'm only addressing that minority of you who co-own your business, or who share management or other business responsibilities, with family members, whether that be a parent, children, siblings, or even in-laws.
But I'm not.
I'm talking to you. To every one of you.
Because whether your business is of the kind traditionally considered to be a "family business" or not, every member of your family is affected to greater or lesser degrees by the decisions you make and the actions you take in your business every day.
And, try as you might to shield family members from the inevitable lows involved in running a business--from cash crunches, to personnel problems, to customer complaints--it's just not possible.
There's no way around it.
Even if you're better at compartmentalizing than most, there's always seepage. There are always impacts on your family members that reflect what's going on at work.
Just ask your spouse.
Just ask your children.
If you're stressed at work, you're bringing that stress home.
If you've got financial problems at work, it creates financial issues at home.
If you have trouble communicating at work, communication suffers at home.
If things at work are out of control, your home environment will be chaotic, as well.
And on and on.
And you--and all the members of your family--are paying a huge price for it.
The fact of the matter is that your business and your family members are inextricably linked--and you are the link that binds them together.
Or you should be.
Because if you try to keep them apart, if your compartmentalization is so successful as to keep them completely separate, you will effectively create two separate worlds that can never wholeheartedly serve one another.
And these two worlds will ultimately split each other apart. One or both will fail, and you will be left in the middle, at your wit's end, wondering what went wrong.
Of course, there is another way to do it.
There's another way to approach your "family business" that is not naively compartmentalized, but instead elegantly integrated.
It starts by recognizing that "every business is a family business."
Your business profoundly touches all members of your family, even if they never set foot inside of it. Every business either gives to, or takes from, the family--if the business takes more than it gives, the family is always the first to suffer.
So that's the cautionary tale I offer you today.
But you know what they say, "Forewarned is forearmed."
It's up to you to take this warning and use it to produce a better outcome.
And you do that by stepping back and looking at your business and your life objectively.
You need to learn how to create a business enterprise the right way, not the way most businesses do it, which results in the alarmingly high rate of business failures we have seen for decades.
You need to see your business from the outset as it will be when it's completed, and you need to work ON creating that business, not just IN it, from Day One.
You need to build your business based on a unique and customer-focused purpose, not just the skill you have or the thing you like to do.
You need to recognize the difference between creating a series of individual jobs around the particular skills of individual people, and creating a turnkey business based on a series of integrated systems that can be taught to your employees.
And, finally, you need to have a plan for growth that takes you seamlessly from one stage to the next, so that customer demands don't enslave you in a constant state of busy, busy, busy, doing it, doing it, doing it, robbing you of the chance to stop and take a breath, to enjoy your family, and to enjoy your life.
Because your business is not your life. But it can be the vehicle for getting what you want for your life and for those you love.