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5 Things Your Family Business Can Learn From Animal Planet's 'Tanked'

5 Things Your Family Business Can Learn From Animal Planets Tanked
image credit: Animal Planet

Is your family business one big happy family, or would you benefit from calling in the SuperNanny to teach you all how to get along? On a recent episode the Animal Planet reality-TV show Tanked, family business is on display in all its bumps and warts. 

Custom Las Vegas aquarium builders Acrylic Tank Manufacturing create extravagant fishtanks for their upscale, celebrity clients. The ATM staff includes the company founder, his son and his daughter and her husband, all trying to get the work done without losing their minds and wringing each others' necks.

Related: 7 Steps to Landing and Profiting from Celebrity Customers

Son Brett Raymer doesn't always get along with his sister's husband, company CEO Wayde King. They're a pair of opposites -- King is a nose-to-the-grindstone type, while Raymer has been known to nap or watch TV at work if he thinks he can get away with it.

While they clearly get on each others' nerves, the family has a knack for keeping the mood light and the focus on business. How do they do it? Here are a few tips from the show:

1. Define your roles. Each family member has a clear job to do -- daughter Heather King handles accounting, for instance, while dad Irwin Raymer (known as "The General") is the office manager.

Related: Should You Pass on CEO?

2. Aim high. At ATM, they’re looking to land big-money assignments for huge aquariums. By focusing on the high end of the market, ATM keeps enough revenue coming in to support the entire Raymer brood.

3. Hire outside the family when needed. Too often, family businesses get insular and stagnate because they don't want to hire anyone else. Either that, or outside employees are treated like second-class citizens. At ATM,  gifted tank technician, Robert "Robbie Redneck" Christlieb, and crack saleswoman Agnes Wilczynski are treated just like family, and looped in on everything that's happening.

4. Tolerate eccentricities. Compromise is key if you're going to be at work with your family all day. Wayde King is clearly driven nuts by many of his brother-in-law's personal tics and lackadaisical work ethic, but some good-natured ribbing between the two of them keeps the annoyance from escalating into unproductive fights.

Related: How to Work With Relatives Without Driving Each Other Crazy

5. Make it fun. The Tanked family all have one thing in common -- they love practical jokes. Each member takes it in stride when it's their turn to be the butt of a joke. When The General loses a bet and is required to come to work dressed as a member of the band KISS, he shows up in full makeup, costume, and massive platform shoes, just in time to join the real band members at the unveiling of a tank ATM designed.

Despite the circus-like atmosphere the pranks can create, the ATM family succeeds because underneath the jokes is a single focus: To keep finding top-drawer clients who want extravagant fish tanks, keep topping themselves with outrageous aquarium designs, and keep the company the premiere tank builder to the stars.

How do you make your family business successful? Leave a comment and give us your tips.

Carol Tice, a freelance writer, is chief executive of TiceWrites Inc. in Bainbridge Island, Wash. She blogs about freelance writing at Make a Living Writing. Email her at carol@caroltice.com.

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