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How to Run Your Family Like a Billion-dollar Company

A family is not unlike a business.

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At the Founders Foundry, I work with company founders and organizational leaders to bring principles from couples therapy into the workplace. In my private practice, I work with couples as one of less than 300 couples therapists in the world certified by The Gottman Institute. Just as we can bring principles from couples therapy to the workplace, we can also bring principles from the workplace into the home.

A family is not unlike a business. There are schedules to coordinate, objectives to hit, and a budget manage. There are also people to manage, sometimes with competing priorities (who gets to choose the Netflix show tonight?) And without a process for communication, things can fall apart, especially during difficult times.

Here’s how to run your family like a billion-dollar company.

Schedule Weekly Family Meetings

You probably have regular meetings with your team at work. You review, plan, pivot when necessary, and execute to achieve success. Why not do the same with your family at home? Many couples that I work with have never considered having regular, scheduled weekly meetings to discuss the business of their lives together. Their conversations about managing their lives come in spontaneous spurts throughout the week, are rarely organized or part of a strategy to achieve success, and they find themselves frustrated. 

Imagine how we would get work done in our professional lives if we didn’t have regularly scheduled meetings, adhere to deadlines, or execute according to plan? Yet, so many couples are not implementing this basic tool of scheduled meetings to discuss the business of their lives. Yes, minimizing interruption will be key (this is a good use of screen time for the kids). At the conclusion of such meetings, defined next steps to implement should be written down so there is no ambiguity about who, what, where and how. Just like meeting minutes. 

As a caveat, these meetings must not be a substitute for date night, even if it is a stay-at-home. Date night is about fun. Family meetings are about goals and strategies to meet your objectives as a family–perhaps not as fun as date night, but meeting family objectives as a team is also extremely fulfilling nonetheless! 

Set Family OKRs

Objectives and Key Results (OKR) is a goal setting framework popularized by Google. The basic structure of an OKR is, “We will (Objective) as measured by (Key Results).”

Objectives are what you want to achieve. They should be short, inspirational, and engaging. Key Results are metrics that measure your progress towards the Objective. For each Objective, you should have a between 2-5 Key Results. For example: 

Objective: Have a clean house

  • Key Result 1: Make the bed every day
  • Key Result 2: Clean the bathrooms every week
  • Key Result 3: Deep clean every month

Objective: Eat healthy as a family

  • Key Result 1: Have at least one serving of vegetables every night for dinner
  • Key Result 2: Only order takeout once per week
  • Key Result 3: Go grocery shopping at least once per month

You can track OKRs in a basic excel spreadsheet. You’ll also need to decide who is in charge of making sure the objectives are met. Often couples come up with objectives but the “project manager” around this task is not identified. If each person assumes that the other is doing it, then you can imagine the frustration that ensues. 

Similarly, if one person is the project manager for all objectives, then feeling flooding or overwhelmed is likely to happen. Cognitive load is a big issue, particularly for women who can often feel that they are swamped with double duty. Even if they are delegating, they still feel “in charge” and this can result in resentment over time. 

And objectives can and should be able to change. The regular meeting to review progress provides a forum to discuss not only a status check on how plans are being executed, but also to discuss if a pivot or realignment may be necessary. Difficult and perilous without organization, this part of the process allows for growth and support between family members. 

Create a Family Mission Statement

In business, a mission statement describes why you do what you do. A family mission statement does the same thing. It also speaks to your underlying values, like raising children who are kind, ethical, and hard working. When you create a family mission statement together, consider how these values can be operationalized in your home. Operationalizing your mission statement helps develop objectives. Objectives are derived from the values within the mission statement. For example, giving kids chores can teach them the value of hard work.

Reward Performance

We all need motivation and we are highly influenced by reward. Rewarding the family with stars or checkmarks for daily objectives met that can be “cashed in” for items such as a fun hike together, going out for ice cream, and watching a movie together can be things to look forward to.

Not everything in business goes off without a hitch—successes and failures are part of the journey. It’s the same with family. Sure, there will be hiccups along the way, but if you have a robust operating structure in place, you will enjoy the journey that much more.

This article was originally published on the Founders Foundry.

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