Many of our businesses can be traced back to one or two founding individuals. As these ventures grow, however, more family members may get involved to help fulfill the mission and vision of the business. With growth comes inevitable challenges and growing pains as initial processes need to scale and adapt. I’ve learned from personal experience, watching my father and mother grow THP, that family businesses can succeed, but not without struggling at times. One of my father’s favorite sayings speaks to this; “When the boat sets out to sea, it is likely to encounter storms. The challenge is learning to control the boat when that storm comes.”
Storms will come as you grow any business, particularly if it is cultivated by family. However, those storms can be navigated successfully by understanding the following principles:
“When the boat sets out to sea, it is likely to encounter storms", Phuong Uyen Tran
Embrace effective communication. Communication is critical no matter the situation, but when you have personal and business lives overlapping, emphasis on good communication is extremely important. Transparency and better communication empower every individual involved in the business — especially family members — to exercise better judgment and to take ownership over their part in the process. A shared understanding of expectations allows everyone to be unified in purpose, goals, and tasks. Family-owned businesses only work well when there is good communication between different family members and across the generations.
Listen to one another. An integral part of communication is listening. A family must learn to listen to each other fully and to be generous. This results in giving others the space to express an opinion without butting in or mentally preparing our own retort. Doing this as a family helps free us from our prejudices about who we are and what we are capable of — it gives each individual the space to reveal their best self.
Create and adhere to boundaries. When family members are involved in the business, it is important that boundaries are created both inside and out of the working environment. The potential for broken boundaries and inter-marital, or inter-generational, conflict is practically limitless. When THP was first established, we had no boundaries at all — we literally lived in the factory. My father’s office was also our family’s living room. Logistics have changed over the years, but despite the change in living quarters, it is important to acknowledge boundaries in the work environment. For example, in the workplace, I need to respect my father as my boss, but he also needs to respect my professional opinion even if it differs from his. He talks to me as a valued colleague and supervisor, not as a father talking to a daughter.
Be a family first. Your familial relationships are the most important. It is vital to do what is necessary to keep them intact and strong. Our family has its own mission statement and a set of core values just like our company does. We regularly re-visit these values, discuss them at family meetings, and then refine them. We all agree to abide by them. We have found them an indispensable checklist. They bound us together at a time when we were fraying at the seams. They have helped keep us close-knit and made our working life far more straightforward.
Working as a family will present challenges, but the benefits of achieving success as a family far surpass them. Learn more about how we became the largest family-owned business in Vietnam by getting your own copy of Competing with Giants.
|About author Phuong Uyen Tran |
Phuong Uyen Tran is a model of success in Vietnam. Phuong Uyen Tran is also a special contributor for Vietnam Times. Her writing, including “Competing with Giant” book, and her latest articles are to advise and inspire young people to start-up, overcome challenges and reach out to the world. It is the story of a little girl taking the great responsibilities for a corporation and devoting herself to society.
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