Holiday Survival Guide for Family Businesses - Blair Trippe

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Separating family from business can be hard, especially with the holiday season approaching. Whether you’re having a big family dinner together or a Zoom get-together, tensions can arise.

But the reality is that holiday gatherings are actually a great opportunity to celebrate connections and a shared commitment to sustaining strong relationships. Family connections are permanent relationships which, for that reason, can make them complicated.

At Continuity Family Business Consulting, we have devised five tips to help you enjoy a happy holiday with your familial coworkers:

1. “Whether you’re joining the family Zoom or gathering for church, a small brunch or a formal dinner, build consensus through email and conversations ahead of time so that your gathering will be a “work-free zone.”

2. “If your family gathering must also be a time for a family business meeting, carve out a specific structured time for that meeting — keeping it separate from the family event, so that family can celebrate family alone.”

3. “Build memories together by organizing one or two structured, but relatively non-competitive, activities that include all generations and offer a learning experience about the family and perhaps what they’ve built together. Large families might design and post a family tree to show how everyone is related and to explore family history. These charts can be sources of fascinating conversation as many family tree programs allow for detailed information and photos of each family member.”

4. “If you’re having a seated meal, mix up the usual constellations by separating those who work closely together, those who already know each other well and those who have known conflicts. Use this as an opportunity to break down factions and walls. Hosting a virtual shared meal can also build connection, especially if you plan an activity to focus and bring people together. When family members know each other well, trust is increased, which builds the Family Factor.”

5. “If your family really struggles to contain tension or conflict, it may be best to avoid the typical gathering in favor of an outing or shared virtual experience that provides both structure and distraction, such as a Teleparty (Netflix Party), First Night, a virtual or live performance, or a sporting event. This provides shared experience, but in a less intense and reactive environment.”

“Many of us approach the holidays with a Norman Rockwell image of tranquil feasting and laughter around a perfectly-set table. However, in real life, it can be useful to let go of these fictional images and find the ways in which one’s own family can best showcase their love, commitment, humor and connections as they celebrate their continuing relationships.”

About Blair Trippe: Blair is a managing partner at Continuity Family Business Consulting specialized in negotiations and conflict resolutions. She co-authored the book “Mom Always Liked You Best — A Guide to Resolving Family Feuds, Inheritance Battles and Eldercare Crises,” aa guide to help families communicate and negotiate effectively. Blair also co-authored “Deconstructing Conflict,” a book about understanding family business, shared wealth, and power. Blair combines her experience in adult family communication and conflict resolution with her business skills to provide clarity, insights, and directional advice to address complex issues that often face family-owned and operated enterprises.