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It isn’t “just business” when you’re working with your family. Although sharing a family business can be wonderful and even empowering, family dynamics can quickly get in the way and make business personal. Anything from sibling rivalry, generational differences, and past conflicts can lead to ineffective communication and misunderstandings, which affects the business. This is why having a code of conduct is essential for the success of your family business. 

Why Have a Code of Conduct

A code of conduct should be a list of rules and expectations for communication and behavior. Everyone must agree to this code of conduct and respectfully hold each other accountable when it comes to business matters and interactions. This is especially helpful for families prone to bad habits such as interrupting, talking over one another, criticizing, or playing the blame game. With a code of conduct in place, these bad habits will have less of a chance of getting in the way of business dealings and communications. 

Creating the Rules 

To follow a code of conduct, you’ll have to first create and all agree upon one. Creating a code of conduct is an excellent opportunity to start fresh. When thinking of the guideline for business discussions and interactions, think of ways that will allow the family to be open, candid, and expressive without creating too much conflict. The code of conduct should be a way to find business solutions amongst the family.  

Take the time to write down the principles of communication you all are expected to follow so they can always be on display. This way, each family member can recognize what they need to honor the code and be encouraged to identify when someone is not following the code of conduct. Instead of working against each other, everyone will have the opportunity to express their ideas and feelings without disrupting the business dynamics.

Key Elements to a Code of Conduct

When developing a code of conduct, the main focus should be positive communication, calmly expressing feelings, and keeping conversations on track. Positive communication means having no interruptions when someone is speaking, keeping one’s voice level, and allowing others to speak. Calmly expressing feelings is also essential to the code of conduct as it helps avoid any arguments escalating. To keep conversations on track, ensure that business is the main topic. When discussing business, personal history or past family conflict should not be brought up. Make sure all business communications or meetings have an agenda and do not deviate from it.