Every game, including the “Game of Life,“ has rules of engagement. Family businesses are best served when they clearly define the terms and conditions of employment for family members and for non-family.

When you are born into your family, you are accepted unconditionally. The love of your family is unconditional. At least, that is the way it should be.

Employment in a business is different from membership in a family. Regardless of the ownership structure, all businesses require competent employees in every position. Acceptance in the business must be conditional, based on competence and the ability to produce and perform at a consistently high level. If a person is less than competent, they simply will not meet that standard.

This blog is the first in a series on Family Business Employment policy.

What follows is the first blog in the series. My focus is the theory behind each section of the employment policy. This policy is drawn from an actual policy designed for a real company. The universal principles are excellent and applicable to all family businesses. This policy was developed in the mid 1980s and the principles underlying it are the “gold standard“ of all family employment policies. Any family business policy worth its salt will have the components of this policy. The policy can be read in full at:

The policy begins with a statement of purpose, establishing the fundamental reason for the policy:

To remove the ambiguity about the matter.

“The purpose of this policy is to define the procedures, process and criteria that will govern how the Wilson family lineal descendants and/or their spouses enter and exit the family company’s employ. (Note the clarity of including spouses as employees. Some families do not permit this.)

This employment policy is intended to remove the ambiguity that currently exists so that interested family members can shape their career paths accordingly. (Note that the responsibility for shaping one’s career rests with the individual, not the family nor the business.)

We believe that clear, constructive communication of this policy will contribute to the long-term success of our family and The Golden Goose Company. (Straight away, the policy describes the quality of communication expected and raises the issue of success for the family and success of the company.)“

This Purpose statement is a window on the expectations the family places on its members. Each individual interested in a career will have studied the Rules of Engagement and understands that they must act as a responsible adult.

That is a very good beginning for what lies ahead.