Family Businesses: Dos and Don’ts

Entwistle’s Garage receiving Master Shop Award at DRIVE EXPO 2022

Very few people are lucky enough to be in business with their loved ones, owning and operating a family business can be a privilege. There are many intricacies that go into working with family. Since you’re around them not only at work but in the home as well, it’s important for everyone to have laid down clear boundaries. Charlie and Debbie Entwistle, owners of Entwistle’s Garage, have been carrying on the family legacy for 75 years and counting. So, they are experts at balancing business and family. Continue reading to hear 7 tips on how to successfully run your family business.


  1. Focus on the upsides

There are many positive qualities of running a family business. You get to work with the people you love and trust the most. Entwistle’s Garage has been open since 1947, Charlie and Debbie purchased the business from Charlie’s father in 1990. They have been running it together ever since. Charlie notes that, to him, “the upside of working with family is the ability to trust them completely when managing the money.” Whether this is managing the business’s books or working the front desk, Charlie knows he can always count on his family to get the job done. Another upside of working with family is the fact that you already know them. You don’t need to have extensive job interviews or background checks completed; you already know the person you’re hiring. You might’ve even grown up with them!


  1. Define each family member’s role

When you have multiple family members in your business, the lines between jobs might start to blur. Charlie says, “you should have a concrete definition of what their role is in the business and have honest expectations for their role in the future.” So, make sure to clearly define each person’s job. This way, no one is trading responsibilities with one another, and everyone knows exactly what they are supposed to be doing. Not only in the present, but in the future as well. While job responsibilities could change or shift as time goes on, it should be clear to you, the family member, and the other people working at your company. When everyone is up to date, everyone can function to their fullest potential.


  1. Start taking your kids to the business early

The key to preparing your family to work in the business is to make sure they know what they are getting in to. When you bring your children to the business with you, they can start building a knowledge of the business early. By being able to see what owning and operating a company is truly like, they can be fully prepared to know whether or not they want to join in. Charlie says he started working in the business after school when he was 13, and he had his kids do the same. Giving your kids, nieces and nephews, or younger cousins a chance to test the waters can ensure they have a realistic view of working for your business and set them up for success.


  1. Set clear boundaries

Whether you live with the other family members that work in your business or not, it’s important to have clear rules set in place for work talk. Maybe you have a rule where you and your wife can’t discuss the company during designated family time. Or maybe no one is allowed to “talk shop” at the dinner table. Either way, having these boundaries in place can make sure your work and family life remain separate and balanced. Charlie says his wife, Debbie, has rules in place for when they can and cannot talk about work and it helps keep the peace. By separating your home and work life, you’re more equipped for stability.


  1. Make sure everyone is eager to work

When you have owned and operated a family business for a long time, some family members may feel like they have to join the team. As Charlie puts it, “make sure the other family members really want to be there, rather than being there from a sense of obligation”. If your family members feel like they have to work in the business, it could make them resentful of the work or even your family. When you ensure no one feels like they are required to work they will be more eager to fulfill their role and continue on the tradition.


  1. Remember why you love your business – and family!

Taking time out of your busy schedule each day to focus on what makes you thankful can help keep you on track. You want to make sure you list out all of the reasons why you love being a business owner. How you get to make the decisions, you control your own schedule, and you get to do what you love. You also want to make sure you list all the reasons you love your family, in general and when you work with them. How you know them better than anyone else, that you have innate trust with them, and you get to experience each day with your loved ones. When you remember why you love every aspect of your job, you’ll love every day of work. Charlie says he loves running his family business for two reasons. “For one, it makes me proud that I can carry on my dad’s dream. Second, it gives me more sense of security than working for someone else.”


  1. Plan your exit strategy in advance

Working with family means different family members might have varied expectations on what will happen to the business once you step down. It’s important to talk to everyone about the future, to make sure everyone is on the same page. You also want to have your exit strategy laid out in front of you. When you’re open and honest about what you plan to do or who you plan to pass it on to, your family members feel valued and connected to you. This also allows for them to plan their future at the same time. Maybe someone who you thought would continue your legacy is happy to remain as any employee instead of an owner. So, make sure you know what you want, what your family members want, and what will be best for your business. Less confusion now leads to a smooth transition later.


All in all, there are many perks to working with your family! The information from Entwistle’s Garage, a business where a large amount of their work is towing, knows how to get things done. So, just put these seven tips to practice to ensure your family business runs smoothly.



Prepared by Chase Clough