By Jeanne Bernick, Certified Family Business Advisor
For many of you, the stress of harvest season is over and now you enter a new season in family business: the holidays! As if working with family isn’t challenging enough, now there are mandatory meals and celebrations and traditions to recreate, not to mention additional relatives who may be curious about what is going on within the family business.
For many of the family farms and ranches I work with, the holidays can be a tough time for communication and business transparency. My advice to family businesses is to rely on your family legacy to get you through the holiday season.
Historically speaking, relatively few farm and ranch businesses have survived the generation of their founding. The fact that your family business is still thriving is worth celebrating in itself! Throw in the challenge of decades-high inflation and interest rate hikes and most people right now are embracing the chance to disconnect from business and reconnect as family again. I hope you’ll do the same, and that you’ll take this advice into consideration this holiday season.
3 tips for enjoying the holidays as a family business
Reflect on the past.
Everyone loves to hear the story of how grandpa and grandma started the farm business, or how the ranch was carved out of the hard scrabble clay, or the tenacity of your forefathers to build in this place, at that time.
Look through memory books and read the history of the land or farming region to bring into perspective how far the business has come over the years. Ask the older generation about their favorite memories or lessons from working on the farm. Recount your own funny memories of working with a cousin, brother, or sister. The stories that unfold will be treasures for years to come.
Keep the peace.
Another tool I give farm families to manage stress over the holidays: Don’t Create New Regrets. Everyone in family business can think about a past argument or debate that lingers as a negative in their memories. But the dinner table isn’t the place to dig up old bones.
So, keep these four words in mind when conversations get heated or tense. Think before you speak or act, and ask yourself: “If I say or do this, will it create a new regret in my family or within the business?” Keeping the peace is worth far more than making a point.
Focus on the good.
Take the time to linger over your family and business legacy this time of year. Focus on appreciating those who came before you and look into the eyes of your children and grandchildren who will come after you. Appreciate the struggle of another year and the lessons you’ve learned through mistakes, successes and risks taken.
The spirit of the season is meant for reflection and celebration of both the past and the future – don’t let it pass without a little bit of both. While the holidays can be tense for families who run businesses together, your time will be better spent if you try to embrace harmony and enjoy your time together.