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How To Make Your Family Business Work

How To Make Your Family Business Work

Everybody has come into contact with a family-run business at some point. Whether it be the local hardware store, a painting and decorating company, or your accountant, they exist in every sector.

There is no better way to pass on a legacy than to pass on your life’s work to your children. Though the questions are: is it really that simple to run a family business, and how can it be successful?

I chose to explore this issue as my sister and I are currently in a similar situation. But please note: though I will use the term family business throughout the article, the advice below applies to both businesses run by family and those run by friends, too.

Why would you want to start a family business?

So you’ve got a great idea for a business and you want to get it up and running, but you cannot do it alone. Who do you trust? Although family and friends may not have the right skills required for the job, there is already an ingrained sense of trust between you. This makes it much easier to share your ideas and research with them, and get started on building your dream. Skills can be much more readily learned than trust gained between two parties, especially at such an early stage in the development of an idea.

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From a different angle, a family business may be exactly what your relationship needs; a common ground that you can both talk about and share to build and develop a relationship that’s been drifting apart. Commercially, a family business also has a certain appeal about it. When you pop down to the local butcher and see “Michaels & Sons” over the door, you feel an instant warmth and connection towards the store. People in family-run businesses tend to value each other, their product, and their customers.

Another way family businesses can pop up is through a shared passion. You may be out having a drink, chatting away, when you both—mildly inebriated, maybe—consider the prospect of going into business together.

Hey, that’s a great idea! Why don’t we just get a little cash together, buy some stock, and just do it? It’ll be fun, and we can do it, no problem!

Many people have had a conversation similar to this but never get round to doing it, or question their optimism the day after. However, if the passion has not faded by the time you’ve recovered in the morning, then this shared motivation may be the perfect way to get the ball rolling. Having someone constantly inspiring you, and making sure you are doing what is necessary, can be a great benefit when starting out. Plus the added responsibility of another party makes the desire to succeed that little bit more important.

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There are also several logistical and financial benefits to family businesses. Family can provide you with low- or no-cost labor, helping maintain the day to day whilst allowing you to concentrate on expansion or development. Also, if ever in need of a short-term or quick loan, family or friends may be able to provide you with a low- or no-interest loan to keep you afloat. However, it is important to be careful with the latter, as these loans can make or break relationships.

What do you need to consider?

Now you have the idea, the hardest part is to put the whole thing into play. This is where the real blood, sweat, and family feuds start to take place. Be prepared for a bumpy ride because starting your own venture alone is a rocky process, and can be exacerbated by the inclusion of close ones. So, here are a few things that you should really consider:

1. Have you worked together before? Whether it be a school project a few years back, or a little charity stall to raise some money for the Scouts, if you have worked successfully and positively with the person before, that can make the whole journey a lot smoother. If you know each other’s traits, the best ways to communicate and delegate tasks, and even have complete faith in one another to deliver, it can be a huge burden of doubt relieved. If you haven’t worked together before, maybe just reflect on the last time you worked alongside someone and the issues you had or the things that worked well, in order to get an understanding of what is best for you all. If you both do something like this and go through the ideas with each other, it can lay the foundation for a healthy working relationship.

2. You clock in, you’re partners. You clock out, you’re family. This is the one that is often the hardest to overcome. In the end, you both have the desire and ambition to succeed with your idea—that’s brilliant. Though sometimes people can start to slack or lose passion. It is crucial to remember that you should be looking out for what is best for the company as well as yourselves. If you have some personal problems that crop up, make sure you highlight these and look for ways to address them: take a back seat and allow someone else to help out, or switch the tasks you do so that you can work more from home.

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However, there can come times when very difficult decisions need to be made, even to the point that considering the resignation of one member of the business, maybe even your own, is on the table. If it comes to this, it is important to highlight that it is not a personal decision and try to prevent damaging the relationship that existed prior to going into business together. This is obviously the worst situation one can be in, and hopefully you will never get into such an extreme position.

Fortunately, conflicts can often be resolved, depending on the relationship, and the ability to have such a lenient working environment can be very useful. For example, you could arrange between you flexible times of work that allow you to attend your weekly Pilates class, or pick the kids up from school.

3. Keep your finances in check. Everyone may be raring to get involved, and be adding to the investment fund to get the idea’s blood pumping. Make sure you consider not only the future of the business, but the future of yourselves. Where do your finances look to be six months, two years down the line? If the situation does not look good, then someone should probably consider a stable income external to the venture. By removing the burden of financial security from the venture, it allows for riskier growth strategies, greater flexibility within the company finances, and most importantly, peace of mind.

4. Take a break. You may be the best of friends, but there are going to be times when you need a break from each other. This is vital to retaining a healthy working and personal relationship. Perhaps schedule days where only one of you is in the office, or take a weekend away, refraining from all business calls and emails. Not only will this further develop the trust in your partner to lead and manage the venture, but it will also give you a break from each other and allow you time to reflect on other areas of your life. As much as you may enjoy the risk and reward of a venture, there are other areas of your life that need some attention, too.

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Now that you have done your homework, it is time to crack on with writing that business plan, and launching your idea. I wish you the best of luck with your endeavors, and would be pleased to hear any stories of attempts and—hopefully—success!

Featured photo credit: ThinkStock via i.huffpost.com

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Published on September 16, 2020

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

Today, with many companies going remote—at least until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine—technical proficiency is a vital skill for every interviewee to master. You may be asked to interview for a job on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The way you handle yourself in the online interview (your interview skills) will say much about your ability to work from home efficiently.

Does your workspace look clean or cluttered? Is the area free from noise? Is your home office well lit?

Once hired, you may be asked to organize meetings on Zoom and other platforms. Along with mastering the technology, you will have to learn to follow certain protocols.

Now is the time to get up to speed on your technical skills. Learn which interview skills are needed for the particular job for which you are applying and practice them.

Online learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, offer courses for free or a nominal membership fee. If you are a DIY type, make use of training videos offered through your particular digital tools.

Additionally, demonstrating that you have these 12 interview skills will help you land your dream job.

1. Organization

When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, some of the organizing is left to others. Your direct supervisor may host a Monday morning quarterback meeting where each worker reports on the progress on their tasks.

When you work from home, much of the organizing will be left up to you. To a much greater extent than before, you will need to develop a schedule and stick to it. Some tasks may be faster to complete from your home office where you don’t have other workers competing for your attention.

Conversely, you may find that some tasks that would have gone quickly in an office seem to take forever from your home computer. Your phone may ring a lot, which can distract you, or you may have kids and a spouse who inadvertently disrupt your schedule.

To do: Set a schedule and stick to it.

To discuss during your interview: Be specific. Point to the interview skill you utilized to create a schedule for a complex work project and followed it.

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2. Flexibility

You set a schedule for the completion of your tasks, but your prospective boss gets their work done between the hours of 2:00 and 8:00 a.m. Your West Coast partners are three hours behind your East Coast partners, and one of your partners lives in England while another lives in Australia.

Feedback and collaboration (see point 3) may need to happen asynchronously. Be the flexible candidate—the person who is willing to occasionally disrupt their schedule for the greater good of the team.

For extra credit: don’t just look up time zones, look up whether they observe Daylight Savings Time.

To do: Be flexible about meeting times.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a time when you worked on a team where members lived in different time zones. Discuss your processes.

3. Collaboration

As recently as six months ago, before the pandemic raged around the world, collaboration wasn’t quite as essential as it is today. In a remote office setting, collaboration doesn’t just mean working well with others—but actually sharing documents and editing them online on time.

Several cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Trello, enable the type of collaborative teamwork that most companies want today.

To do: Download the correct software and practice using it.

To discuss during your interview: Discuss how you worked remotely with a group. Share how you overcame certain challenges.

4. Poise

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

When things do go awry, keeping your wits about you will demonstrate your consummate professionalism under fire. This will show your future bosses that you will be able to work well under the pressures of remote work.

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What could go wrong, you ask? You might be muted without realizing it—your Internet connection may not be robust, your headphones may blip out, your cellphone may ring, Zoom could have an outage. The list goes on and on.

To do: Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of Skype and Zoom uploaded.

To discuss during your interview: Consider highlighting a time when a project did not go as planned. Demonstrate the interview skills that allowed you to rise to the challenge.

5. Communication

Your ability to handle online communication is one of the top critical skills you will need to thrive in today’s remote workplace. Download Slack if you haven’t already. Get used to toggling to a different form of online communication if one of your tools fails.

When it comes to the preferred format for your online interview, demonstrate proficiency by offering several different options. Give your phone number, Google Chat Hangouts name, and Skype ID.

To do: Familiarize yourself with video conference and online chat tools, such as Slack, Fleep, or Workplace by Facebook.

To discuss during your interview: Be prepared to share the online communication tools you’re using and examples of how you use each one.

6. Good Computer Hygiene

Setting up a backup system for your computer files is one of today’s crucial requirements for working in the digital age. Storing documents that can be shared by team members is also an efficient way to work together on presentations, articles, and reports—although studies show nearly one-third of employees avoid them because of the time it takes to find documents.

Be prepared in your interview to indicate your experience utilizing this technology, describing how you organize and store files using cloud-based collaboration tools. How do you keep track of links and tabs? Do you use Dropbox? Google Docs? Confluence? Others?

To do: Take inventory of the cloud-based document sharing and storage systems you know and use.

To discuss during your interview: Describe the document sharing tools and backup systems you utilize—both for personal protection and professional file sharing.

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7. Proper Meeting Etiquette

Today, presenting yourself virtually has its pros and cons. While you only have to show a professional persona from the waist up (make sure to straighten up your office space behind you), you must boost your energy to show that you’re engaged in the discussion.

Make your voice as upbeat as possible. Have your talking points at the ready and be careful not to ramble on, as long virtual meetings easily become tiresome. Use the mute and chat features to avoid interruptions.

To do: Once you know the meeting platform, make sure you have it mastered before your interview.

To discuss during your interview: Offer to share your screen to show an example of a work project— while at the same time demonstrating your prowess with video conferencing tools.

8. Respecting Feedback

In the age of working remotely, there may not be as many systems in place to obtain feedback (such as yearly performance reviews). Workers may need to ask for feedback, while managers may need to give more feedback than usual as the team adjusts to working off-site. Respecting feedback is on top of the interview skills list that you should learn.

Taking a proactive approach with giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your work style is a desirable quality that your employers will note.

To do: Reflect on the positive feedback you’ve received from past employers to bolster your confidence.

To discuss during your interview: Share a time when you received feedback that made you grow in the job. If you’re a manager, share a time when you gave feedback to an employee who needed to better their job performance.

9. Project Management

Staying on task with projects has evolved far past a to-do list, with electronic tools that can track time, manage team workloads, and even do the client billing. While your prospective employer may have its preferred project management program, your experience with any of the various options—whether it’s Basecamp, Teamwork, Smartsheet, or another—will be applicable.

To do: Know which project management software is likely to be used by the industry in which you’re interviewing, and familiarize yourself with its features.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a project management feature that is particularly useful in helping you excel in your work, and explain how you utilize it.

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10. Staying up to Speed

Employers expect their remote workers to be technically proficient so that technology runs smoothly and doesn’t create work disruptions. Bosses count on remote workers to know enough about their systems to manage them without relying on the help of overworked IT staff.

To do: Make sure you have a fast internet connection and have a back-up plan, such as a second computer or other tethered devices.

To discuss during your interview: Note that you are diligent about keeping your computer and software up to date.

11. Attention to Cybersecurity Issues

“Virus” is a loaded term these days. Spreading a computer virus in your company, however, will not only bring productivity to a halt, but it will also make you a pariah. While working from public places using free Wi-Fi (with uneven security provisions) has waned, in pre-pandemic times, coffee shops accounted for 62 percent of Wi-Fi security breaches.

To do: Keep antivirus software updated and don’t download software without verifying its authenticity.

To discuss during your interview: Emphasize your awareness of cybersecurity risks and your care in taking necessary safety measures.

12. Teamwork

Work relationships now mostly happen in virtual settings, yet employers value team-oriented workers.

Being a part of a team gives you a sense of connection and shared purpose. A well-honed team understands how mutual reliance makes the sum of its parts greater than when individuals act on their own, improving the end product.

To do: Take stock of your attributes as a team player and where you can cultivate skills that will enable you to work more collaboratively.

To discuss during your interview: Inquire about the company’s culture and how it encourages a sense of community despite working remotely.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for remote positions available in today’s job market will mean honing your interview skills to highlight your technical abilities as well as your adaptability. By adhering to these To-Do’s and perfecting your online interview skills and charisma, you will rise above the competition and win over any prospective employer.

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Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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