The Surprising Strength of the Interdependent Family
In family businesses, the startup season is often marked by struggle and interdependence. Families have to pull together, tighten their belts, sweat the lean times and bend the knee in prayer.
Read stories of the early years in many family businesses (or try starting a business!) and you can imagine the challenges. The members of the family are called on to make sacrifices, to contribute whatever it takes to get the job done. Often the hours are long and the returns low.
Families need each other in those times. They are highly interdependent. And often they experience the camaraderie of those who fight through tough times and enormous challenges together.
However, once a family gets beyond the startup season and begins to move to stability, margin and even transition, a curious thing happens. The patriarch/matriarch often encourage their children to move to a place of independence. In essence, they expect their children to “make their own way” or to prove they “have what it takes.”
The irony is that families in business together often begin interdependent and move to a place of encouraging independence. That independence can cause silos and even division, especially compounded across generations and family units.
Don’t leave interdependence behind
The family members may be able to afford independence from each other since the startup period of their business is in the distant past. But they unwittingly leave behind a key value of healthy, purposeful families.
We need to encourage the idea of remaining interdependent, rather than chasing after independence.
Families may need to create new opportunities for interdependence, of maintaining connection with each other in meaningful ways.
Perhaps family members fulfill roles in projects related to the family’s mission. Perhaps one member organizes everyone for family gatherings for times of celebration or more serious discussion. One member could head up the family’s charitable activities, while another could be the family historian. These are a few ideas.
(For a great post that further discusses the differences between independent and interdependent families, I recommend Becoming an Interdependent Family by Australian blogger Belinda Letchford.)
In sum, interdependence promotes the idea that every family member has a place, whether in the business or not, and that role in the family has value!
Photo credit: iStockphoto.com