Family Businesses: Keeping the Peace

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The natural products industry is home to numerous family businesses. While many families love working together, friction can surface when several family members are involved in the business and everyone isn’t on the same page.

Joseph Semprevivio, founder of Joseph’s Lite Cookies, started making and selling sugar-free ice cream as a teenager, and then expanded out to making and distributing sugar-free natural cookies at the age of 15, with the help of his parents. Today, Semprevivio has three family members working at his firm, said to be the biggest family-owned natural sugar-free cookie company in the world.

From his time as a teen entrepreneur through currently being a lead sales and marketing person and decision maker for Joseph Lite-Cookies, he has paid special attention to the family dynamics to help make the company a success.

Semprevivo recently sat down with WholeFoods Magazine to offer some tips to entrepreneurs who make family part of the business plan.

  1. Create job titles and defined responsibility for each family member. “The best way to run a business—for clarification and accountability—is to explain to someone your expectations for them and their deliverables,” he states. Don’t just discuss the tasks of the job; make clear your requirements for their work hours per week. “Spell it all out so they know what’s expected of them,” he states.
  2. Keep a paper trail. Next, Semprevivo advises management to avoid future confusion by recording job responsibilities in a document and having both parties sign off on it. “It’s a win–win for both parties,” he states. Moving forward, record important communication to family members in writing, even if it’s just e-mail, so people can refer to it down the road.
  3. Keep the lines of communication going by establishing a weekly meeting, whether in person at a neutral place (like a coffee shop) or by video chat. “Meet at the same time every single week to go over goals, expectations and special projects, preferably outside your place of business so there’s no distraction,” he advises. “Communication is critical for the success of a business.”

Semprevivo and his father Larry recently coauthored a book about their lives and family business, Madness, Miracles and Millions, which has won several awards. WF

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, May 2015