Being Part of a Family Business

There’s an interesting article in INC magazine, entitled “How to Run a Family Business”, that goes into the ins and outs, ups and downs, and challenges and joys of working with family.

The article, written by Christine Lagorio-Chafkin, talks about how family businesses differ from businesses that are not run by a family and quotes some interesting statistics that should bring hope to those in the wine business who have a family business (almost everyone). The first is that while “fewer than 30% of family businesses survive to the second generation, and just 10 percent hold on through the third… Those are far better survival odds than for small businesses not run by a team of family members.”

Ms. Lagorio-Chafkin also writes that the most important focus for family businesses should be on “drafting agreements, clear expectations and assigning clear-cut roles to family members.

I have found in speaking to family members running wineries throughout North America that assigning clear-cut roles can be something of a problem sometimes, if one or another family member is having a hard time letting go. The article also points out that it is helpful to give everyone a job title, a job description and performance standards. Oh, and don’t forget the rewards, whether it is salary or a particular job (that they are capable of performing).

Another important point that was mentioned is defining who, in the present and future, is part of the family business, and deciding what qualifications are necessary. I know of wineries that expect any family member to have a college degree and work for a certain number of years in other businesses in the industry.

As in any business, family or not, communication is key. So remember the words of George Bernard Shaw who said, “The single biggest problem with communication is that illusion that it has taken place.”

A tip of the glass from me to you!


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