While the conversation on boundaries in the family business most commonly revolves around the maintenance of a healthy work/life balance, the concept applies universally. A boundary marks the threshold where one role, room or responsibility stops and another begins. Boundaries are as much strength as they are strategy and effective boundaries are as likely to be real or formalised as they are to be unwritten or imaginary.
The breadth of their definition speaks to their pertinence in every aspect of the family business. Just as the walls that separate the rooms of a house give the house form the demarcations that define a family business also describe its trajectory of success.
Unlike the walls of a house, however, boundaries in a healthy family business must reflect change both internally and externally.
Knowing where these boundaries fit and how to establish, maintain and reassess their relevancy over time becomes uniquely challenging when multiple generations must be considered. As technology accelerates and adaptability becomes increasingly important, our capacity to examine our businesses through the lens of what we will and will not do becomes a prerequisite for success.
In this Focus Feature, we ask experts and family business leaders from around the world to help us further the conversation on boundaries in the family business:
For Katerina Andreou, Psychologist and Founder of HR Innovate, Cyprus, the management of boundaries is an essential leadership practice. Leaders create a work culture that impacts every person it comes into contact with. Like a family unit, everything must connect in the right way for an organisation to run well, and in most cases, these connections are the product of transparent communication.
According to Rob Lachenauer and Omar Romman, CEO and Partner and Partner of Banyan Global, USA, subsequent generations need boundaries to ensure family business sustainability. Boundaries prevent confusion, define responsibilities and create an environment where reinvention is possible. Some boundaries occur naturally over time, but often, they are laid out through open and honest conversation. It can be an uncomfortable subject, but framing it in the future is one strategy to make easier for everyone involved.
Pete Walsh, Master Certified Coach and Author, USA, helps business-owning families face the dilemma of living their professional concerns in non-professional contexts by helping them to establish boundaries. Empathy is the first step, and by giving every member of an organisation space to address their concerns, families can build empathy and work towards a healthier, more sustainable model of interaction.
For Krishna Nallamilli, second-generation family business member at India’s Aditya Educational Institutions and Co-Founder of the AI firm Kimo, boundaries were not always so clear. At one point in his career, working at the family business meant convincing his employees that his role was more than just his last name. Over the years, however, he’s built trust and defined his responsibilities, expanding his knowledge-base and working closely with family while maintaining different departments and keeping his entrepreneurial projects apart from those of the family business.