What Role Does Family Play In Business?

If you are a small business in terms of the number of people engaged within it – i.e just you or you and a business partner, how do you manage to get everything done with a limited resource pool? Do you call on the support from a spouse or other family member or do you do what a lot of business owners do, and ‘have a crack at it’ all yourself?

This got me thinking back to the many business owners I have met and worked with, and made me reflect on just what roles family play in the business owners’ life? Upon reviewing, there are the typical broad range of engagement levels- from zero to fully partnered and aligned.

Let’s look at how family can help, especially if not actively engaged in the business (i.e. they may have a job, while you pursue your dreams!)

The non active family member has a number of options- they can do nothing, say nothing, not be involved, not support or encourage, just be a silent passenger to take if all is going well, or to critique if things arent going so well. Clearly this is a detrimental outcome that one would hope is not the case as it doesn’t do much for the person attempting to run a successful business- in a physical or emotional sense!

Even if the partner is working a demanding full time job there are still small things they can do to support the business owner- be it words of encouragement, offering suggestions for the business, or being a sounding board for ideas and concepts, but at least there is a sense of partnership.

For those who may not be in full time employment, but not active in the business there are many other ways they can support as well (of course some of these will depend on their skill set). They can assist with processing bookkeeping tasks, assisting with invoicing, helping to follow up on debtors, talking to their spouse about business challenges and ideas, seeking referrals from their own contacts, promoting the business with their contacts etc etc. Most of these are not major time consuming tasks, but they at least help demonstrate a level of teamwork with their spouse, who, if they are like most business owners, will go through the ups and downs of building their business.

The choice to go into business is one which takes a lot of guts to do, especially if you’re leaving the prior security of paid employment, so knowing you have a supportive partner can make a big difference to the success or failure of the venture. If you are in this situation, take the time to ask your partner how they are going and if there is any small thing you can do to help. Whether or not they take you up on the offer is not the point- it is the thought of asking and the knowledge that you support them.

Tony Ozanne

Small Fish Business Coaching Canberra


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