It’s true, if you’re a family business owner, you have a lot to juggle – and you have to be able to get outside the box when it comes to defusing conflict and refocusing back to business. 

One of the most significant aspects that sets family businesses apart from traditional businesses is emotion. While family businesses can be a great source of pride and passion for the families that operate them, that same passion can create tension and additional issues in the boardroom if business matters begin to intersect with personal feelings and family dynamics. 

Over time, as you navigate these issues as a family and a company, it’s possible that you will find yourself falling into decision fatigue – especially during times of generational transition or other major changes with your business. Decision fatigue happens when you’re forced to make many decisions at once over time. 

Eventually, emotions become more heightened and your ability to make sound decisions suffers. 

Decision fatigue in a family business can and often will derail the core business and its growth.  But, there are ways to prevent this while continuing to handle business and make progress as a team. One of the best ways to combat emotion in family business dealings is to try to communicate well and address potential misunderstandings or disagreements before they occur.  However, as we all know, that’s not always possible. 

If your mitigation tactics come up short, you need a plan to move forward and handle business while keeping emotions in check.  A great way to do this is by utilizing the power of the strategic vote.

What is a strategic vote?  It is utilizing strategies that help all parties see that the decision-making process is run in a fair and unbiased manner such that everyone feels their voice is heard and respected. 

Here are 4 ways to use voting to keep your family business on track:

1. Blind Voting

One of the most obvious ways to use voting to limit emotional tension during decision-making is the blind vote. Each party votes anonymously and the votes are tallied by a 3rd party to ensure fairness. This approach is effective in situations where decision-makers may feel pressure to “pick sides” or vote a certain way if their voting preference were known openly to the group.

2. Voting by Segment

When making decisions for your family business, it’s important to remember that everything can be a negotiation – even voting.  More often than not, there will be times when you cannot get everyone to agree on one course of action. During those times, voting by segment can be a useful tactic. 

Voting by segment allows you to break a larger span of voting items down by segment and then proceeding to vote on each issue independently. This compromise helps everyone see that some of their choices were represented in the final decision. 

3. Consensus-Based Voting

Consensus is when all members of the group, as opposed to just a majority or a small fraction of the group, agree on a course of action moving forward. The group uses a vote by consensus to reach a decision in a way that is mutually advantageous, guaranteeing that no issue is “off-limits” and that all crucial players are on board.

While using this strategy takes time and work, it can help you determine what members of the group are on-board or could be convinced to get on board, versus what members will need further negotiations to feel at peace with the decision-making. In this situation, those who are not on board are given the responsibility of suggesting what will have to change for them to feel at peace with moving forward. 

Rather than placing blame, framing the discussion from the point of view of asking them what will need to happen to get them on board helps foster a collaborative and cooperative environment. 

4.Time-Block Voting

The final strategy is based on a simple idea: nothing lasts forever. This tactic can be used in combination with other tactics, especially in situations where certain group members are highly opposed to the recommended action or decision. With this tactic, you agree to “time test” the decision, with the potential to review and reconsider after a set interval of time such as the end of the quarter, end of the year, or etc. 

While it’s never easy to sort through the emotions of family business decision-making, voting strategies can alleviate tension. Looking for further guidance in your family business? Schedule a consultation with Bill to get started on making the changes you need to succeed with your business.