Managing Priorities in Your Family Business

05/28/2015 10:31 am ET | Updated May 27, 2016

The payoff for running a family business is huge. You can transfer wealth for generations to come. It's a perfect vehicle for uplifting others out of poverty. You become the change agent in your community and can make a difference in the lives of many. That's why running one is tough. Add to that multiple and sometimes conflicting priorities with your family and business, and you could feel overwhelmed.

List Your Family Priorities

The first word in family business, is "family." That is your number one priority and your business exists to serve every member. As a family unit, you have many priorities. Some include: academic education, leadership development, ministry service, volunteerism, fundraising, board participation and social development. If you haven't already written a family vision statement,start today. Your vision statement will hold you accountable to choose and implement the right priorities for your family. Once you identify those, list them in order, again, using the vision statement as a guide.

List Your Business Priorities

The same applies to establishing your business priorities. I believe that the most important business document you can ever write is your strategic plan. That plan should include a vision statement for your family business, which will guide the priorities you set for running it day to day. Some include: generating publicity, prospecting, sales presentations, networking, drafting proposals and contracts, serving clients or customers, innovating and more. List your family business priorities in order.

Schedule Priorities Weekly

Family business owners do not have the luxury of scheduling priorities day to day. You won't be as effective and priorities will fall through the cracks. Pick one day a week to schedule your entire week of family commitments, business projects and community activities. If you can, schedule major family commitments for the entire year, such as birthdays, anniversaries, medical checkups and vacations. Taking charge of your week by scheduling priorities for all seven days, keeps you in charge of your schedule, your business and your life. You'll react less to the day to day pressures and demands on your schedule. Remain flexible, but learn to say no to other things when it conflicts with your scheduled priorities.

Assign Theme Days

The 'ole timers were on to something when they assigned theme days for routine chores. For example, Monday was wash day, Tuesday was ironing, Wednesday was mending and so on. You can apply the same technique to your family and business priorities. It may look something like this: Monday is writing day, Tuesday is publicity day, Wednesday is networking day, Thursday is training day and so on. It doesn't mean that you don't implement your other priorities. However, when you dedicate days to specific priorities, you become consistent in accomplishing the tasks you need to grow your family business. Consistency, over time, is your competitive advantage.

Keep a Time Log

You think you know how you spend your time, but it's shocking to find out what we don't know. Working long hours doesn't make you productive. You have to find out how you're actually spending your time. Track how much time you spend on your priorities. Use a mobile app or other timer each time you start and stop working on one of the priorities you listed for your business. You may learn that you actually spend less than an hour each day, and that the rest is spent on busy work. Increasing that time to a half and then full day is crucial for success in business. The only way to know is to keep a time log.

Discover the rhythm of your family and business. You have one. For me, it's waking up at 2:30 AM everyday and knocking out as many priorities as possible before my children wake up. I juggle a couple priorities during the first couple of hours, in between making breakfast, bible study, and helping them with personal grooming. Once that's taken care of, I'm focused on homeschooling and social development. Then, I transition into community activities and visits to the park. What's your rhythm?