There’s lots of people willing to tell you how to be successful – but since most businesses fail (~80% in the first five years), I figure there must be a larger market for how to fail – right? Right!


So, in case you were wondering, here are some simply, easy-to-implement ideas for how to make your family business die an ugly, painful, embarrassing death. Bonus! You’ll also alienate your employees and destroy your repuation! 

  1. Treat family members like they’re more specialer that other employees. For example: insist all employees report to work on time, but let family members arrive late.
  2. Right or wrong – no matter what your family does, always back them over other employees, customers, vendors, whoever.
  3. Always defend your spouse. Never let employees or non-family criticize them. That’s what being supportive means, right?
  4. Employees come and go, but family is forever. Yeah, employees have issues, too – but you have to live with your spouse.  The most important thing is to keep your spouse happy in the workplace and keep peace in the family. 
  5. Sit next to your spouse in staff meetings. Be sure to touch them frequently, hold hands under the table, and squeeze their thigh when they do a great job. It’s good for the employees to know how much you unconditionally love and support each other
  6. Make no differentiation between “personal” and “business” expenses. Make sure your employees know how much you’re charging to the business and why they won’t get that raise this year.
  7. Endorse your family on LinkedIn. It’s totally legit because you know them better than anyone else, right?
  8. Divide everyone into two groups: “family” and “employees.”  Have lots of inside jokes with family members to remind other employees that they’re not one of you. 
  9. Be sure to use family nicknames like “Mom” and “Gramps” and “Baby Girl” during business hours. 
  10. Make it clear to everyone else that you won’t let anyone talk smack about your sister/cousin/mom/son/fiance. Define “smack” as “anything less than praise and adoration.”
  11. If you have a choice between an effective employee and a family member, always choose the family member.
  12. Make business decisions based on what’s best for the family, not the business. Blood is thicker than water, right?
  13. Make excuses for family members, but never let employees get away with anything. Of COURSE your daughter can show up for work late – she had a rough night. But you were totally justified firing that other woman for calling in sick. 
  14. Make sure to carry family arguments into business hours. It’ll keep your employees on their toes!
  15. If there is a disagreement between family members, make employees chose sides.
  16. If they chose the wrong side, fire them.
  17. Make your staff babysit your kids during business hours, but don’t pay them any extra and yell at them if they don’t also complete all of their work.
  18. Make promises to family members that they will be “taken care of” if they work hard –  but don’t put anything in writing. Then,  insist that since it’s not in writing you don’t have to do it.
  19. If it is in writing, claim that they are taking “unfair advantage of the family relationship.”
  20. If you’re in control, use the business as your personal ATM. Buy new cars and pay for family vacations out of the payroll account. It’s YOUR business and you earned it.
  21. If you’re a family employee,  use the business as your personal bank or supply depot to “make up” for not having your fair share. Sure, they own the business, but you’re family and deserve more than those other employees who aren’t even related! 
  22. Let your spouse spend investor money on personal items – home furniture, expensive dinners, weekend getaways. Refuse to tell your investors what happened and never make your spouse pay it back.
  23. Have an affair with an employee.
  24. Ignore your family completely – they’ll understand that you’re working hard for them.
  25. Insist that your children work for free – it’ll teach them the importance of hard work!
  26. Give the corner office, the promotion or the special bonus to family members – no matter what they did or didn’t do.
  27. If cash is tight, lay off employees before family. Also, take care of your family expenses like mortgage and groceries before you pay employees. They’ll totally understand if their paycheck is late – you’ve got KIDS to feed, right?
  28. Make business decisions at Sunday family dinner but announce them by e-mail Monday morning.
  29. If you fight with your spouse, have make up sex at work in the office.
Did I miss any?

A physicist by trade, author by choice, a born teacher, a retired veteran, and an adamant problem solver, Frank has helped the White House, federal agencies, military offices, historical museums, manufacturers, and over 250 technology startups get stuff done, communicate effectively, and find practical solutions that work for them. In his spare time, he makes sawdust and watches Godzilla movies.