Boundary setting in business is a challenge, which is doubled when running a family business. When boundaries are not set, work can bleed into your everyday life, processes get sloppy, and burnout is inevitable.
In a recent interview with Leslie Harpole, Co-owner of Champion Plumbing, Adi and Leslie discuss the boundaries that Leslie consciously set as a business partner and wife to her co-owner. She shared many principles that anyone working in a family business, and entrepreneurs can implement in their pursuit of greater work/life balance.
How to Set Boundaries in a Family Business
Here are five principles Leslie follows to keep boundaries in place as she and her husband work together at Champion Plumbing:
1. Have a boundary-setting meeting
Meet with the other partners in your business to discuss boundaries that work for all of you. The first meeting may take some time if your team has never discussed this. We recommend that you build an agenda that includes some active discussion and productive rule-making time.
An agenda for your first boundary-setting meeting may look like this:
a. Before the meeting, prepare a list of common boundaries other business owners have set to achieve a better work/life balance. This may include:
· An on-call rotation designated for off-hours.
· Policies around off-hours texts/calls.
· Policies about work discussions at family gatherings.
· Scheduled tech-free weekends for those who need them. (This would likely have to be on a rotation if you have a small company or startup)
· Designated “interruption” rules.
· Signs for reworking these work/life balance boundaries during upheaval, a pivot, scaling, etc.
· No calls before __ AM and after __ PM.
b. Set a purpose for the meeting. In this case, it is to set boundaries that improve the whole team’s work/life balance.
c. Provide an outline in advance. An outline for this meeting may look like:
Meeting beginning: Reiterate the meeting priority, which is to set boundaries that improve our work/life balance.
15 mins: Go around the room and have each meeting attendee contribute their thoughts on the ideal work/life balance.
15 mins: Go around the room and have each meeting attendee contribute their thoughts on boundaries to help them achieve this ideal.
15 mins: Go through each point suggested and determine how or if it is feasible.
15 mins: Layout the policies most likely to work and strategize how to implement them.
5 mins: Assign accountability partners.
5 mins: Assign any named tasks to team members for implementation.
d. Provide a meeting summary and ensure all tasks are assigned to the proper attendees.
e. Follow up with all to see how and if the boundaries work.
2. Build a process for effective boundary-setting
As part of the meeting above, your team will want to build a process for the most effective boundary-setting policies.
For example, if there is an on-call rotation, build a process to keep it fair while respecting team members’ vacation time and providing contingencies for sick days.
Building a process will ease boundary-setting and implementation.
3. Rethink when it’s important to vent/share information about work and when you and your family would benefit from talking about other things.
Work is such an intrinsic part of life that taking work home with you can be easy, particularly when you work with your spouse. However, discussing problems, venting, and bringing work home with you can interrupt the special time you share with your family and ruin your work/life balance.
4. Ask for support
You may want a better work/life balance, but does your family or business partner? They may be happy with the status quo.
Talk to those around you and ask for the support you need. Helpful support may include:
· An accountability partner
· App-based communication software
· Suggesting processes around boundary-setting
· Scheduling phone-free/tech-free getaways
· Networks of like-minded entrepreneurs
· Networks of family-owned/operated businesses
You do not need to take on the mission of creating a work/life balance and setting boundaries by yourself. Asking those around you for help can assist you in making your intentions clear and providing real solutions for issues you encounter.
5. Don’t expect the boundaries to remain constant
Life is change, which means that your rules and boundaries may need to be reevaluated and updated as your business and life changes. Instead of fighting against this and feeling like a failure if the systems you’ve put in place or the boundaries you have set stop working, set up a review system that allows you to update and revise systems.
At Business Success Consulting Group, we suggest that business owners review and update their processes once every six months. This is a good rule of thumb when it comes to boundaries as well.
However, if you are in your company’s busy season or, alternatively, life has thrown you a curveball, make a point of quickly reevaluating your work/life boundaries.
For example, if your family has just welcomed a new baby, you may be working from home while caring for the baby, and some meetings may need to occur at the dinner table. But in times when your focus can be in the office, you may set a boundary that meetings only occur in the conference room and work only happens between 9 AM and 5 PM.
Changing boundaries to accommodate your life is not breaking a hard and fast rule. Build a process around reevaluating and updating your boundaries so that you do not alter them without a real reason.
Building boundaries in your business is a fantastic way to build balance in your life. Creating processes supporting these boundaries helps ensure they are a) implemented and b) as automatic as possible. If this sounds like a need in your company, but you aren’t sure how to create the processes and get everyone on board, contact the Business Success Consulting Group experts. We are here to help!