Roles and Responsibilities (or Who Does What?)

When we ask family members in business together what they do, the response is frequently a rather glib, “Whatever needs to be done.” That’s what entrepreneurs do when they start a business. But as the business grows and matures, especially through multiple generations, clarity and agreement around who does what and who reports to whom is vital for maintaining harmony in both the family and the family business. Businesses (and relationships) can be significantly damaged if it’s not clear to everyone where people stand and what’s expected of them.


There’s more to determining appropriate roles than simply weighing competencies. All too often, when assigning positions in the business, there is a focus on industry and task knowledge without enough attention given to style, personality, attitude and the needs of the business. Inappropriate assignment and/or misunderstanding regarding roles and responsibilities is a prescription for discord and confusion within a family business.


Clarity counts! Here are seven ways to make sure you’re all on the same page.

1. Build a foundation for communication that will enable family members to have open and honest conversations about individual skill sets in the business.

2. We encourage the use of a job description that breaks down the responsibilities of the position into the percentage of time spent on each of them.

3. Institute regular HR review meetings regarding roles and responsibilities. There should be discussion of what’s happening, who’s doing what, and what is and is not working.

4. The assignment of roles and responsibilities requires an understanding of the individual’s attitude, style, personality, and patterns of behavior from years past, so that people aren’t trapped in positions that don’t play to their strengths.

5. Match the strengths of the individual with the needs of the business and ensure the principals are aligned on those needs.

6. Make sure the senior and younger generation spend time together. That’s how the next generation learns.

7. Finally, in business, people are accepted and judged based on what they do and how well they do it. Run a business as a business and not as a family if your intent is to ensure the health of both for the long run.




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