In the foodservice industry, Christmas is a peak trading time, and business demands often take priority over family and friends.

Many independent food businesses in the foodservice sector in Ireland have their origins in family, maybe handed down from the previous generation, siblings going into business together, couples, or extended family all involved in a family business.

It’s often one of the important differentiators between independent businesses and the big branded chains.

The old adage of never mixing business and family is based on experience over many generations, and serves not so much as a ‘must not do’ rule but more as a warning to ‘proceed with due care and attention’.

The big positive is that family members, spouses, or close friends who go into business together enjoy levels of trust between business partners that is rarely seen in the business world.

The big pitfall is that failure can have a major personal impact, fracture relationships, burn bridges, and can create deep divisions between family and friends.

So what are the golden rules to avoid the pitfalls?

According to Dean Small, a restaurant consultant who works with family owned businesses, it’s important to have a clear shared vision for the business that everyone rallies around to make it happen. Failure to do this results in disenfranchised family members because they don’t feel their voice has been heard.

Secondly, respect is essential to facilitate the normal healthy challenge and debate without it becoming personal. We all need to be challenged in a positive way for the benefit of our business.

Thirdly, define work responsibilities clearly and play to the natural strengths of individual family members.

Fourthly, draft a business plan with clear goals and objectives. Goals and objectives that everyone buys into are the real drivers of any business. They must be specific, measurable, achievable, and time based.

Finally, put simple systems in place to measure your performance on a regular weekly or monthly basis. Remember, what gets measured gets done. If you’re hitting the target, celebrate success even in a small way. If things don’t go to plan (which they don’t always do) use your collective expertise to figure out ways to make improvements.

So it’s pretty much like a regular business, with some great upsides if you get it right.

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