Running your family like a business

“Because we run our family like a business.”

I overheard my wife saying this to someone. I think it was at a 10 year-old birthday party. 

I had picked up this conversation mid-stream. It’s true. We (try to) run our family like a (mildly successful) business. I reflected on what Nicole said, and I thought about how leading a family is like (and is un-like) leading in business.

Great businesses nail their values, pick their rhythms, and identify one priority at a time.

Nailing your values: Your family needs a decision filter as much as any business. Values are what you decide in advance that you will use as your go-to filter. They help you decide how to spend your weekends, vacations, and money. They tell you what will make you stand out. 

Pick your rhythms: Companies are run during meetings. So are families. Life has not made you busy – you have made you busy. You can decide in advance what meetings you are saying yes to and what you’ll get done in them. Meetings as a family may look dates, movie nights, game nights with other families, going to church. It’s the regularity of when you decide to do stuff.

Identify priorities: Mediocre companies tackle multiple priorities. Great companies pick one at a time. Families (in particular the children in them) can thrive when they know what’s most important right now and they role the play to get it done.

Leading a family is also un-like a business. Families with kids often need:

Shorter goals. While our company can engage with a goal for 6+ months, we’ve learned our kids engage better with shorter goals.

Shorter meetings. Family meetings is where we check-in on our priorities. But five- or ten-minute meetings are far more common (and tolerable) than a typical work meeting.

More reminders. Great leaders remind all the time. We have to remind our kids every day.

Running your family like a business may sound stale, impersonal, or too Type-A. I bet if you do it you’ll find it’s vibrant, engaging, and gives you space for real connection. Organized families may be a bit like organized religion, a little stiff from the outside, but far better than the alternative.

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