Working with Family Members: It’s a Challenge and a Blessing

Working with Family Bridging the gap with the older generation

My husband Dr. Dave Robinson and his Dad, Dr. Harold Robinson at a photo shoot for Positive Dental.

Recently my husband and I attended Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership week-long course. This particular course focused on family businesses and was fabulous. I’d like to share with you how working with the generation that proceeds you, can be a challenging blessing.

I started working outside of our home, after many years of  focusing on my family. Well, actually, my office is located at home.

For the past eight plus months, I’ve met regularly with four professional men, that were used to making all of the decisions for their business development, themselves. They were not used to taking business suggestions and direction from anyone, yet alone a woman, and for two of them, a family member.

Second Generation Dental Practice

My husband is a second-generation dentist.  So, that makes his father a dentist. When we married, both father and son worked in the same clinic, yet, had their own practices. Eventually, when my father-in-law retired, we bought his practice. Let’s fast forward. Last year it was decided upon that, my husband and his father would open a clinic three hours from our home. It is a combined Dental and Vision clinic.

A lot has changed since they each began their practices.
My father-in-law recently attended his 50-year class reunion from dental school, and my husband attended his 25th. We aren’t talking Spring chickens. A lot has changed since they each began their practices. To put it into perspective, Health Care Practitioners were not allowed to advertise, it was considered unethical.

When my husband began practicing, he wore gloves, eye protection, a smock and treated patients while sitting down. His father stood behind the patient while attending to them, didn’t wear gloves, and of course, wore a shirt and tie.

If you visit the website for the Positive Dental, you would see my 80 year old father-in-law prompting you to follow us on Facebook and Twitter. He has an iPhone. He also can be very stuck in his way.

How to Bridge the Generational Challenge
in a Family Business

Let’s face it, if at 80 he thinks he has something to offer, he probably does! Doesn’t he deserve some respect for the sheer fact that he has been successful in his industry for 50 years?! I for one know he does.

As different as our approach may be, I know he has something to offer, especially, when it comes to business knowledge. He’s not still drilling and filling after all of these years, and yes, we do now advertise our dental services. The transition of working with my husband and father-in-law, hasn’t been without bumps.

For me, the biggest challenge has been, not to look at what my father-in-law ISN’T doing or wanting to do, but looking at what he IS willing to consider.

He is still in the game (the business), and wants to participate, not just spend the rest of his days on the golf course or traveling the world. He wants to contribute. He HAS something to contribute.

Strength, Dignity & Grace to…
Appreciate Working with Family Members

  • Strength looks like this: working with family is challenging, yet as a younger generation, we have something to learn from those that went before us.
  • Dignity: be willing to show respect, even when you want to argue and disagree.
  • Grace shows up like this: be patient and forgive them for being set in their ways, they gave us the benefit of the doubt years ago!

Dave Ramsey implores us to be full of grace with the generation that began a business. He also challenges us to move forward using principles he teaches in his EntreLeadership programs. I’m grateful that my father-in-law, Harry, showed grace to me 23+ years ago, and that he represented the Dental Industry in a positive light, that made my husband want to follow him.

If you work in a family business, I’d love to hear how you bridge the generational challenge.

Leave a Comment