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7 Questions to Ask When Starting a Family Business

By Pamela Agboga

Many couples are well blended not just in marriage but also in business. Many families are household names because of their business acumen. Think Kardashians. Reality show or something more serious, here are some questions to answer that will ensure that your family name gets into at least the local business news.

Do we have a solid business plan? Do not get all fired up on the mere strength of a great idea, you have to do the groundwork- research the market, draw up the business plan, establish all the players relevant to your business, think of your marketing and advertising strategy, etc. When all these are covered you can say you have a decent plan for a successful family business.

Are we starting from home or getting an office space? Can you guys manage working from home? You have to consider the age of your children and the time they get back from school. If the children are older or you do not have any yet, you can work for longer hours without interruption. If school runs need to be made in the afternoon to pick them, and perhaps they start trying to monopolise your attention, this can cut into your work time. You might prefer an office space if there are challenges with getting serious with work while at home. Those who work from home require strict discipline to be successful. An office space is also better for making the staff more serious. So you can start with working from home, but if your business has grown enough to require an office space, then make the appropriate arrangements and move to a befitting office.

Can we maintain our ‘space’ and not infringe on each other’s independence in the office? When one spouse is always suspicious of the other’s activities, chances are that the office will become a stressful place for both of them. A couple should also learn not to interfere in each other’s duties, and try to avoid giving the impression that they do not trust each other’s abilities in the office. A united front before employees is also very important.

Are we clear on our duties and expectations? A business is made up of many parts and division of labour is what makes these divisions run smoothly. The couple should be clear on duties; phrases like, ‘Someone should check into this’ are not clear cut instructions,  each spouse should know who is in charge of marketing, customer care, advertising,  supplier interaction, etc.

How do we manage relatives? As with all family businesses, children and other relatives grow up and desire to be part of a successful business. Now is the time to decide on the criteria for acceptance. Most family businesses make the relatives go through all the departments within a certain number of years, starting from the bottom. Apart from engendering a sense of humility in the relatives, it also teaches the all about the business, and especially for a couple with no children, it guarantees succession. Many Nigerian businesses fail because a proper succession plan was not put in place. Parents force children with no interest in the family business to take over, and they run it aground, when there are cousins that can do a great job. All the parents have to do is set the shares of the company such that their children are always in the green, and allow the cousins some shares as well, that way while the children are all enjoying the profit of the business, they are not in a position to run it into the ground.

Have we drawn up all the relevant agreements? Check 95% of Nigerian small businesses, they run without a business plan, partnerships are operated without a simple partnership agreement. Limited liability companies do not have the paperwork drawn up to clearly explain the duties of the directors, how shares are managed, the day to day running of the business, etc. All they have is a Memorandum and Articles that are very sparse with information about the daily running of the business and other important issues. Meet a lawyer to know all the agreements relevant to your business.

Are we ready to be amenable to change? Every business goes through changes, life is not static, so if the time comes to expand your business, open a new branch, add on a new product and service, as a couple you have to be ready and able to change.  And build a group of leaders that are not afraid of change.

 

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Chojare Pamela Agboga is a Legal Practitioner, Writer, Editor, Chartered Secretary and Administrator. She is currently working on her first novel 'Weekends are for Loving' as well as a devotional for women.

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