Family business members should consider strategies to encourage peaceful and supportive relationships between spouses and the family:
- Don't complain about other family members. "There's potential danger in venting because you're only presenting one side of the story," says David Gage, founder of Business Mediation Associates in Washington, DC. And then, quite naturally, a loyal husband or wife will take his or her spouse's side.
- Promote the strengths and importance of your family members. "In most cases, family businesses are stronger because of the complementary skills of their members," says Kliska. The fact that a brother or sister has different talents and does things differently than you should be celebrated, not criticized.
- Communicate what's happening with the business and involve spouses in family and shareholder meetings. "These people are not [outsiders]," says Kliska. "They are an integral part of the family and, by extension, the family business." Spouses should know what major challenges the business is facing and how well it's doing. They should never feel isolated or left out.
Dale Crownover is president of Texas Nameplate Company Inc., a Dallas manufacturer of nameplates, ID labels, dials and panels started more than 50 years ago by his father. Crownover has attained a balance that works for him, his wife and the business. "I don't bore Julie with details of the family issues in the business," Crownover says. "But we do talk over coffee about troublesome processes, not troublesome people, and she knows everything about the business's finances."