At the office, Alex Sutherland calls his boss by his first name, Kenand after business hours, he calls him Dad.
I have two relationships with him, and it's important to have some separation between when I am in my role as his employee and when I am in my role as his son, said Alex, a wealth adviser with Raleigh, N.C.-based LifePlan Group, an independent registered investment advisory firm.
Sometimes I do slip up and call him Dad at work. I think the clients kind of like that, though.
The difficulty of trying to manage a dual relationship is something common with those who work in family businesses.
It's easy to allow the personal to seep into the business side, and to allow business issues to creep into what should be private time.
But there also are advantages.
Having a father-son relationship in the business is extremely powerful when working with clients, Alex noted.
They get a feel for who we are and they want to know why we teamed up.
It's important to share that story because I think it creates a closer bond between us and the clients.
According to the Sutherlands, they have found ways to address the thorny issues that arise when family and business mix, including:
c Separate personal from professional. In any business, challenges and disagreements will no doubt happen.
It's important that each person understand that these are business feelings, not personal ones, Alex said.
For example, when I make a mistake at the office and am coached on how to improve, Alex continued, I know that Ken is discussing who I am as an employee, not as a son.
c Keep communication open. In any venture, communication is criticaleven without family issues. Adding the family dynamic emphasizes the need for communication even more.
Ken and I are constantly talking about each of our goals and aspirations so we are on the same page and there are no surprises or unknown motivations, Alex said.
c Talk honestly about frustrations. Not everything is going to go smoothly and there will be frustrations, Ken said.
Talk it out. But make sure you do it behind closed doors and not in front of other members of your staff.
c Celebrate successes together. The Sutherlands pointed out that it's easy to become bogged down in what each person in the relationship isn't doing or could do better.
And they said it's important to stay focused on the big picture and to celebrate the accomplishments.
Remember that it's a privilege to work and build a business with a family member, Alex said.
Approach it that way, he advised.
One major issue family businesses face is preparing to pass leadership duties to a successor, which is not something they all do well.
A PricewaterhouseCoopers survey revealed that 40 percent of family business leaders are reluctant to pass the baton to the next generation, and 73 percent of family businesses have no succession plan.
Ken said he is determined to avoid any hitches with his company's succession and has been grooming Alex to take over since the younger Sutherland joined the business in 2012.
Alex, who learned back-office procedures, sits in on most of Ken's meetings and joins Ken for public workshop presentations where they try to attract new clients.
These days it is Alex, not Ken, who holds an initial meeting with prospective clients.
Alex also has taken the lead on the firm's technology front, bringing us very much into the digital-marketing age, Ken said.
Even with our existing clients, we are training them to understand that we are both available to meet their needs, Ken said.
I find that our older clients appreciate having a younger adviser available to them. And I think they like that he will be there for them for many years to come.
This piece was provided by Wesley Chapel, Fla.-based News&Experts. The author interviewed Ken Sutherland, who has been in the financial industry for more then 25 years and is president of LifePlan Group (www.lifeplangroup.com), which he founded in 2003 in Raleigh, N.C. He obtained his Chartered Life Underwriter designation in 1994 and his Chartered Financial Consultant designation in 2004both from American College in Byrn Mawr, Pa., and continues to develop his personal approach to financial planning as a registered investment adviser.
Alex Sutherland joined his father in the business in 2012 as a wealth adviser and, according to the firm, brings a unique and diverse background to his work with LifePlan Group clients.
After receiving a bachelor of science degree with a dual major in mechanical engineering and trumpet performance from Iowa State University of Science and Technology, he was a 2009 Corps Member for Teach for America, a non-profit organization that places teachers in low income areas across the nation.