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The Business of Family Business, How to Avoid Tension at Christmas

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The Business of Family Business, How to Avoid Tension at Christmas

When I was young, my Dad owned a transport company. I grew up washing truck wheels on the weekend and riding my bike around the warehouse.

Also visiting my Grandma, Dad’s mum, working away at a desk in the office. There were two desks in that office, and the other belonged to my Aunty, Mum’s sister. While I still don’t exactly know what happened, one day Grandma didn’t work in the business anymore, and from then on there was tension between her and Aunty.

We got on with life as a family, but it was always there and even as a kid I could feel it. I’m definitely no stranger to working with family or being a part of a family that works together. We still have a family business today, and my husband and I work together on multiple businesses as well. Mostly working with family is great. But when things are go bad they can go epically bad. And that can lead to some pretty awkward downtime interaction.

So here we are staring down the barrel of Christmas. Usually, by this time of year you’re either crazy busy or super slow. Either way, it’s the end of the year, and I’m betting you’re exhausted. Add alcohol, summer heat and issues that have been simmering throughout the year, and you have the potential for an eruption.

But after many eruptions and more than a few uncomfortable family functions, I think I’ve worked out the secret to avoiding a very awkward Christmas lunch! 

It’s all about communication.

When I look back at some of the major issues we’ve had working together as a family and working with my husband, it all comes back to communication. Whether that be misguided, misunderstood or a lack of communication completely. It’s as simple as that.

A few years ago we faced a huge issue that threatened to tear our family apart. I’d gotten myself into a situation where I was completely out of my depth. Instead of communicating my feelings and my position, I tried to fix it and ended up making it worse.

Unbeknownst to me, through further lack of communication, other factors had come into play that made the situation infinitely worse. It blew up. We almost all lost everything. The worst being our family almost fell apart. After being there, I can tell you nothing, no mistake, no amount of money, no level of resentment, is worth losing your family for.

So, this is how we do it now:

1. Are you happy?

There’s no use being in a situation where you’re not happy. It breeds resentment and anger, and nothing good can come from that. If you’re not happy, it’s a good time now to sit down with everyone to figure out why, and then take steps to fix it. 

2. Address issues as they come up.

Let’s say something small happened in March if you’re still holding onto it by the time November rolls around it’ll likely be starting to take on a life of its own. Issues and problems need to be addressed, worked on together and squared away, as they arise.

3. Have some respect.

Every time you speak in stress or anger, stop and ask yourself if you’d be happy for the world to hear you. Or if you’d speak to a non-related employee or boss that way. Family is supposed to be the soft place to land, the space where no matter what you do you’ll be forgiven and find support. But sometimes the lines become a little blurry, and respectful communication gets lost.

There you have it, my recipe for not only a happy and comfortable family business Christmas, but a happy and comfortable family business all year round.

So, from my family to yours, best wishes for a safe and happy holiday period!

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