How do you bring in-laws into the business?

Business Leader Post, June 26, 2012

Thomas D. Davidow, Ed.D.

Very carefully.

If you are thinking of bringing an in-law into the business, you have to consider that his or her entering it is probably going to be a one way street. If it does not work out for any reason, the consequences to the family will be severe. If the in-law is asked to leave as a result of poor performance, or if he or she chooses to leave because of his or her perception of unfair treatment, the family spouse will more than likely have to side with his or her spouse, and it will be a nightmare. Consequently, when it is not working out, most family businesses live with the mistake. Of course, removal due to divorce is another matter.

If you are seriously considering bringing an in-law into your business, here are some guidelines:

The skill set of the in-law has to match a need in the company.

He or she must have at least three to five years of successful experience someplace else.

His or her immediate report ought to be a non–family member.

There needs to be a clear job description.

Compensation ought to be based on the position in the company.

The family needs to be told before the hiring occurs.

A meeting needs to take among the in-law, the spouse and the family member who is hiring where everyone can clarify their expectations and discuss the risks involved.

Schedule evaluations and a trial period where both sides can opt out.

These guidelines do not guarantee success. They guard against failure.