Family Member Not Working in the Family Business? You Still Have a Valuable Role

There are valuable roles for family members who are not owners or working directly in the family business. You can feel included in your family legacy even when you are not directly involved in the day-to-day operations.

In a previous blog post, Defining & Creating Ownership Groups in Family Businesses, we discussed the roles of family owners working in the family business, but what about family members who are not owners or employees? What is their role? How can they feel included even though they are not directly involved in the business?

The Three-Circle Model diagram (below) was developed by Taguiri and Davis in 1982, and remains an exceptional visual to help families understand the various roles they may have within the family business system. In this blog, we are taking a look at the outer quadrant of the lower left circle – family members who are neither owners nor employees of the business. These family members have useful and meaningful roles they can serve in as well – ways they can help both the business and their own professional development.

Family businesses provide some unique opportunities for family members who are not working in the business and who are not owners. Sometimes it’s confusing for these family members to find a place of belonging. However, there are many opportunities for them.

Here are some ways in which these family members can participate:

  • Learn about the family business
  • Carry on the family legacy
  • Join in family retreats
  • Participate in a family assemblies
  • Volunteer for committee work
  • Develop leadership skills

Some of these may be more appropriate for multi-generational family businesses, but there’s definitely something for everyone here!

Stay Educated

Family members who are not presently working in the business may want to at some point. It’s wise to keep up and know what’s happening in the family business. Some informal ways to do this could involve following the business on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram or other social media. Make sure that you are on email distribution lists for company updates, customer emails and/or press releases. Learning about competitors, new products, or key employees is an important as part of staying educated about the business. Also, read – there are many excellent resources about family businesses to help anyone understand the dynamics better.

Embrace Your Unique Family Legacy

The history of a family business is often intwined with the family’s history. A common “language”, a way of communicating, is developed within a family, as is an understanding of the company’s history. As a family member, you have the ability to continue to carry the legacy of the company. This involves learning and sharing the values of the founders. You can demonstrate those values in your life, how you communicate, how you engage with the world around you, and by living with integrity.

Keep the Family Unified and Healthy

Keeping families healthy and strong is important for family-owned businesses. As a best practice, many companies hold some type of annual family meeting or retreat. As well as building and strengthening family relationships, these events are great opportunities to educate non-owner, non-employee family members. Often intentional agendas are developed to provide other family members a multi-generational understanding of the history of the business, along with the current state of the business.

Attend Family Assemblies

As part of a family governance model, many families have family meetings, sometimes called family assemblies. It’s difficult to have a successful business without a successful family. Family assemblies include all family members, not just family owners. Structured family meetings can help define non-business policies pertaining to the family. Some examples include how the family will make decisions, how conflict is managed, communication guidelines, and how family members enter the business. Discussions about family values, mission and vision are common discussion topics, and often serve to bring families closer together.

Committee Work

Committee work is a valuable way to make a contribution, learn about the business, and deepen your commitment to the company. Committees are typically a part of the family governance model and can stem from a family assembly group or a family council. These are not business committees, but are tied to the family portion of a family business. Some families have a committee dedicated to education, others may have a planning committee that is responsible for planning meetings or retreats. Committee opportunities might include charitable giving, community support, family legacy, and investments.

Develop Leadership Skills

The opportunity to develop leadership skills, especially for the rising generation, is a very valuable way to be engaged in the family business. Involvement in any of the opportunities mentioned above are valuable in building and developing leadership skills. As the next generation of family members approaches the potential of employee or ownership status, it is important that they have a strong professional background that includes leadership roles.

Whether you or not you are interested in becoming an employee or future owner of your family’s business, you still have an important role as a family member. As part of the family, there are many valuable and critical ways that you carry on the work of the family.

How Quad Group Can Help

At Quad Group, we understand all aspects of family businesses and the families they represent. We come from family businesses ourselves, and have participated from all perspectives. Now as family business consultants, we bring that experience and understanding of the nuances and challenges of running and growing family businesses. Contact us to discuss how we might help your family business, and family members, succeed.

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