Family-owned businesses form the backbone of many economies, and a unique aspect of these businesses is the intersection of personal and professional relationships. This often leads to the question: How does one set remuneration for family members?
Setting a fair and justified salary for family members is essential not only for the wellbeing of the business but also for maintaining harmony within the family. Here are some guidelines to assist in this challenging task:
1. Objectivity is key
Separate personal emotions and biases from professional judgment. Assessing family members as you would any other employee is the first step. Understand their roles, responsibilities and the value they bring to the business. The remuneration package should reflect these elements rather than personal relationships.
2. Market rate as a guideline
Start with a baseline. Research the prevailing market rates for similar roles in your industry and region. There are numerous online tools that can offer insights specific to the market and industry. Ultimately it is about a ‘fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work’ and by aligning family salaries with the industry standard, you minimise the chances of overcompensation or underpayment.
3. Evaluate contributions
Regular performance appraisals aren’t just for corporate environments. Evaluating the contributions of family members can be a touchy subject, but it’s a necessary one. Quantifiable metrics such as sales targets, client retention or project completions can provide a fair basis for setting salaries and bonuses in family-owned businesses.
4. Transparency and open dialogue
Fostering a culture of open dialogue can alleviate many potential conflicts. Be transparent about how remuneration decisions are made. Engage in discussions with family members, ensuring they have a platform to voice their concerns and opinions.
5. Consider the financial health of the business
It’s tempting to offer generous packages to loved ones, but the remuneration strategy should always align with the financial health of the business. A good practice can be to benchmark remuneration against business profits. If the business is thriving, it may be appropriate to offer better packages, and conversely, during lean times, it might require some adjustments.
6. Incorporate non-monetary benefits
While salary is a primary concern, don’t underestimate the value of non-monetary benefits. Flexibility, professional development opportunities and other perks can often hold significant value for family members and can be part of the remuneration strategy.
7. Engage external consultants
Sometimes, an external perspective can provide clarity. Consider engaging a Chartered Accountant familiar with the nuances of family-owned businesses. They can offer an unbiased viewpoint and help establish a framework that is both fair and competitive.
8. Review and revise
The business landscape is dynamic, and roles within a family business may evolve. Just like with any other employee, it is important to regularly review remuneration structures to ensure they remain aligned with individual contributions and market rates.
Setting family remuneration is a delicate balance of maintaining business viability and preserving familial relationships. By adopting a systematic, transparent, and market-oriented approach, family-owned businesses can ensure that remuneration is not just a financial decision but a tool for business growth and family cohesion.