When a business is making money, few people care about whether everyone shares a common vision. But a company cannot make profit for long unless the executive team gets on the same page. There’s one thing you need for a business to thrive in the long-term—unified leadership.
When leaders don’t see eye-to-eye, a business flounders. Goals become less clear. Purpose gets fuzzy. Clear expectations go out the window. Chaos ensues as everyone advances his or her own agenda.
The same is true for a family. If you have chaos at home, the chances are good that you are not on the same page with your spouse. In business, we can cover up our divided leadership for a while behind carefully worded memos and press releases, but children have a way of identifying and taking advantage of the slightest division between parents.
Before we started thinking of our family as a business, my wife, Ann, and I were seldom on the same page. We shared a common faith. We agreed on the general direction we wanted our family to go. But we didn’t function as the unified leadership of our family. We didn’t speak with one voice to our children. And we didn’t have a framework with which we could get on the same page.
The One Thing You Need
Once we decided to think of our family as our most valuable business, one of the first things we did was incorporate our family. We formed a legal entity—2BTimms, LLC—to make it official. Ann and I hold the majority of the voting shares, but we share the equity shares of the company equally with our children in the venture, giving everyone equal value ownership.
What may come as a surprise to parents who are considering this approach is that we encountered no resistance from our children. They thought it was cool. We struggled at times to implement other parts of this new paradigm, but the idea of incorporating our family was a hit from the start. [I explain more of the benefits of incorporating in my eBook Win at Home Like You Win at Work. You can get it for free here.]
I’m convinced the primary reason our children embraced the idea of incorporating our family was this: my wife and I were on the same page. Being unified as parents is the one thing you need to run your family like a business.
Because my wife grew up in a military home, she was accustomed to structure, order, and predictability. It wasn’t difficult to convince her that treating our family as the most valuable business we would ever own could help restore order and end the chaos at home.
By incorporating our family, we finally had a unified front, a shared paradigm with which we could make decisions and lead effectively. Now when I sense that she and I aren’t on the same page on issues that come up with our kids, we defer to the Executive Committee (my wife and me) to consider the issues on our own schedule and behind closed doors.
I may take the lead in communicating with the family—based on my natural strengths—but the kids know that Mom is very much involved and more than essential to the business of our family. The kids even jokingly refer to her as the Wizard of Oz who does the work behind the curtain to make it possible for me to speak with a unified voice.
Unfortunately, many families lack the unity they need to empower their family to thrive. I often talk with successful business men who have given up trying to lead their families because they feel overwhelmed by the chaos at home. I get it. Believe me; I’ve been there.
But some things cannot be delegated. We know this to be true in business. A CEO simply cannot delegate certain decisions and oversight because he or she is accountable for everything that happens. In the same way, we fathers can’t simply leave parenting to our wives because it is challenging and expect her to run the family without us. Like it or not, we share the responsibility for ensuring the enterprise value of our family increases over time.
The bottom line is this: incorporating your family as a business—even if only unofficially—signals your shared commitment to a proven approach, one you know you can use to win at home because you already do it at work every day.
Invest time in getting on the same page with your spouse about treating your family like a business, and position your family to thrive like never before.
Question: What first steps will you take to incorporate your family as a business? You can share your thoughts by clicking here.