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Handling Family Competition

The competitive spirit is often alive and well within families.  Add business to that equation and competition can take on an entire new meaning. It all started on the floor of the living room when they were kids. Who could get to the toys the fastest?  Who got in trouble by making your sister cry?  What is the birth order?  Why could your sister get everything she wanted with a bat of the eye and zero accountability.

Now you are all grown up. Working the business together and the same battle lines seem to get drawn and redrawn. Only the consequences are often more significant. Your brother can come and go as he pleases. If he doesn’t perform, oh well, you will pick up the slack. Who sits on the executive committee of the business?  Why does she and why don’t I?  Who will be the CEO when Mom is gone?  My favorite:  I will never report to anyone else but Dad. What happens when Dad is no longer in the business?  I don’t know but I won’t report to any of my siblings!

Competition within the family and within an organization can be positive. It can stimulate growth, create new products, open new revenue opportunities. The difference lies in how the competition is channeled and where foundational culture of the company is manifested.

Yet too often that competition creates grievances not only within the family but with other co-workers. They see the rivalry, they see the back biting and feel trapped in the middle. It takes patience and boundaries to keep the family competition in check.   

Competition is healthy for the organization and the people – until it is not. The bottom line and employee turnover are the two best barometers for how healthy is the internal competition.

Here are a few perspectives to keep the competitive peace!


Setting up boundaries. Even games as kids had rules, boundaries, things you could do and things you couldn’t. The same goes with the family business. The boundaries of when and where to compete. What is open to competition and the type of competition allows each person to succeed without concern of someone else stepping on plans, goals and objectives.

Roles and Responsibilities

Define them. Most conflict and negative competition comes from two people trying to do the same job and stepping on each other’s toes. “We have always done it this way” mantra comes into play, yet there is no defined process, schedule or accountability. Defining the roles and responsibilities allows for each team member to know what they should be doing, when they should do it and how to create the best possible results.

Determine the “Why”

Each person and each organization must determine “Why” they are doing the business. Tradition?  Money?  Passion?  Nothing better? Because it is the” family”?  Not wanting to be left out?  And the list goes on and on.

If you can determine why you are in the business then the healthy side of competition can play into the picture. The prior generation had their motives, focus and desire, but why are you in the business?  What gets you up in the morning and looking forward to the challenges ahead?

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Janna Hoiberg
Telephone : 719-358-6936

620 N. Tejon Street, Suite 202,
Colorado Springs, CO 80903
48 Avon Shores,
Moultonborough, NH 03254

Colorado Springs Location