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Tips That Will Help Steer Clear of Discord in a Family Business From the performance measurement criteria to other things, a family relative should go through the same process meant for all others

By Komal Nathani

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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While there are some who successfully work with family and can often be heard saying that there could be nothing more fulfilling or enriching, there are a few who fight with no-holds-barred in full public view.

Working in a family business can sometimes be a memorable experience or a fraught simply due to the fact that if something goes wrong, the damage can be quite upsetting.

Right from the feud between Ambani brothers' to the popular real estate developer Niranjan Hiranandani's discord with his daughter, Indian family businesses have no shortage of examples that very well validate how devastating the aftermath can be.

Entrepreneur India reached out to a few family business entrepreneurs and experts to get their responses on how working in a family business can be a challenging affair. And if it is the case, then how can entrepreneurs strike a balance between their personal and professional relationships.

Here are the experiences shared by them.

Maintain Internal Transparency

An early starter, 22-year old Nishank Goel, who is a third generation entrepreneur and also the Chief Executive Officer of Masters India shared his view saying, "This business was started by my grandfather 40 years back, and it has been grown by my parents over these years. I have just joined and feel there is nothing much to balance at this age. But in my experience, what I would like to share is that one should always be transparent with the management team which may include your family members."

Elaborating further on this Goel said, "Internal transparency always brings smoothness and keeps confusion out of the way. One should also discuss the ideas with them to know all the negatives and positives of the business. Thinking professionally will help you in managing it in a better way."

"Sometimes, young entrepreneurs think they know almost everything but there is much more they don't know. There is no harm in taking advice from family members since they have done this. You might not get the consequences right so their advice indeed holds an importance. And they will be more than happy to share that," said Goel.

Create Separate Spheres

Leave your personal equations and family ties outside the door once you enter the office. The CEO and Founder of Daiwa TV, Arun Bajaj spoke about his staunch belief in this practice and how his and his father's relationship has never affected. "My father is my boss in office and I do not blur the lines. That helps a lot in building healthy personal and professional relationship. We've successfully managed to work together over the years," said Bajaj.

Speaking about how entrepreneurs can control the situation if it is getting out of the league, he said, "It starts with treating everyone as equals. That is the first step to professionalism. Secondly, I think non-interference in someone's work helps you separate the two. Be there when needed but don't squeeze your presence unnecessarily. It is equally imperative to not confuse emotions as you have an entire team behind you. If you cannot strike the balance, it will lead to chaos in your team."

What the Experts Say

When it comes to family business, there are limited chances of firing because it could cause a lot of embarrassment and stress, said Nupur Banga, Professor at ISB Hyderabad and an expert in family businesses.

To abstain from these situations, entrepreneurs should keep in mind a clear process of hiring a family member in the company at first place. "One should make sure that the person is well-groomed. There should make a qualification mark before letting the relatives or any family member join the business in that position. The clarity in roles will lead to ease in maintaining relationships, and therefore the chances of firing will be reduced."

As the difference between other employees and family member employees can cause feuds in the company management, Banga advised that there should be no special privileges or entitlement to be given to family members. "From the performance measurement criteria to other things, a family relative should go through the same process meant for all others. Similar parallels always help in maintaining a clear understanding, she said.

Principles to Remember


  • Be proactive about asking for candid feedback from someone outside your family.
  • In family businesses, think for the long-term and rather than short-term benefits. Take decisions which could give positive results in the long run.


  • Don't let the feeling of entitlement be displayed in front of the employees.
  • Don't behave like an owner, behave like a steward.
Komal Nathani

Former Correspondent, Entrepreneur Asia Pacific

A firm believer of hard work and patience. Love to cover stories that hold a potential to change the momentum of business world. Currently, a part of all-women web team of Entrepreneur’s Asia Pacific edition to jig the wheel of business journalism!


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