Factors that Form Culture in the Family Enterprise: Part II Family Habits

Kent Rhodes
Kent Rhodes

There’s been a lot written and said about the link between the culture of an organization and the extent to which it performs well or is effective.  This link is even more impactful in a family owned business since part of that culture involves the relationship of owning family members with the business, employees, board members and with each other.

As I have said in earlier blogs, a family business’s culture is certainly unique to the family that owns and operates it. But it also can make the difference between the ordinary and extraordinary as it relates to excellence, employee engagement, trust within the community and reputation for “doing good”. I talked about how values make up the foundation of a culture, but another factor that influences culture is way a family relates to each other.

For example, sibling and/or cousin teams working together in a family enterprise can influence the culture of the place just based on their life long habits of interacting with each other. Whether they are combative around decision-making or wind up laughing as much as getting any work done, they influence the overall culture of the enterprise in ways that seem quite natural to them, their employees and even customers.

But like most factors that create or influence culture, the impact of relationship and communication habits among family members on the culture of their business may not be readily obvious.

Take the family that is generally combative in decision-making. Over time, employees and managers may develop attitudes and plans of “workarounds” in order to more efficiently complete work. While this may carry an element of creativity, the price may also include a reduced sense of respect and trust of some owning family members with workarounds seen as a necessary way to avoid the family confrontations to complete basic work. The end result may not impact the “success” of the business per se, but it could be impacting the extent of the business success – both in the short and long term – if all that is getting done is the bare minimum. That could have a cascading effect that impacts the company’s ability to retain the very best talent and even the reputation of the family in the community.

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