Establishing an Open-Door Policy

When nonfamily employees talk, listen.

Just because nonfamily employees don't share the same last name as the people who own the business doesn't mean they don't have ideas, comments or even criticisms that would be beneficial to your success. But do they share these with you? And if they do, do you really listen to what they're saying?

"If the family business culture is closed, and employees sense that the family thinks it can do no wrong or that it's not open to constructive input, employees stop talking," says Paul Karofsky, executive director of the Northeastern University Center for Family Business in Boston. What ends up resulting from the lack of communication is a decrease in morale, people leaving the company for other jobs and little long-term commitment. Karofsky asks, "Who'd want to work for such a company?"

Patricia Schiff Estess writes family business histories and is the author of two books: Managing Alternative Work Arrangements(Crisp Publishing) and Money Advice for Your Successful Remarriage(Betterway Press).

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This article was originally published in the January 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Hearing Aid.

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