• Service: Enterprise, Family business
  • Type: Business and industry issue
  • Date: 8/27/2014

What is a Functional Family? 

Functional Family
Many people think that it takes a very unique type of family to be able to work together without falling out constantly. The perfect, functional family.

The reality is that there are specific reasons behind why some families can build a successful business together. Regardless of whether it’s in your family’s future to start a business together, or not; all families should be seeking to function more like this.

It’s all about Respect

If you come from a place of respect in all your family dealings, whether speaking to an older member, or younger, then it will be more likely to be well-received. Often family members can forget to respect each other as people, and rather take each other for granted, but this can lead to people feeling underappreciated, and may cause bad feeling for no reason.

Many people tend to think that the most important thing in a family is to do everything out of love. But if this is taken too far, or misconstrued, then people can end up taking actions “out of love” that can be (RC) toxic to the family, rather than nurturing. If everyone respects each other then they are more likely to automatically treat each other well.

Privacy is important

Boundaries within families can easily (and very quickly) become blurred, without everyone realising until it’s too late. Allowing everyone their own space and privacy goes a long way (A) in maintaining harmony (A) within the family. This is especially important if the family members work together, as everyone needs to understand the difference between a working relationship, and a personal relationship. If this blurs too much then personal problems can start to influence business decisions, which can be dangerous.

Don’t let Pride get in the way

How many stories have you heard about family members not speaking for years over one argument, with neither party wanting to come forward and apologise? Pride can be a very dangerous thing, and the longer an argument is left without a resolution, the more difficult it can become to solve it, and start to build up the relationship again.

Families should make a concerted effort to put the love and respect they have for the other person, as well as the family as a whole, ahead of their pride after an argument and try and start mending fences as soon as they’ve cooled down enough. It’s healthy to fight and get things out in the open, but allowing that fight to define your relationship from then on defeats the object of the communication, no matter how heated it was.

Fight constructively

On a similar point as the one above, never let yourself get too enthralled in a fight that you forget to care about the other person’s feelings. As angry as you are, attacking their character and throwing around spiteful words, which you only feel in the moment, will not help to get your point across, or make the relationship stronger.

Try to remember as much as possible, even in the heat of the moment that you are probably fighting purely because the other person isn’t able to see your side yet. The less you attack, the more likely that they will at least see your point, and maybe even start to agree, without hurting the relationship first.

Forget old labels

Often family members tend to fall into roles within the family, and that is how they are seen by all the members in every situation. Even if they have long outgrown the label. Not only is it important to re-evaluate the younger members of the family as they grow up, and get to know the person they are becoming, but it is just as important to allow the older members to grow in their own right.

As much as people stay the same, they also change, and each member of your family should have the chance to show you sides to their personality that you may not have been privy to, had you not cared to take the time.


Elvira G. Aletta, PH.D., “What Makes a Family Functional vs Dysfunctional?”, Psych Central.

Christophe Bernard

Christophe Bernard
I am a KPMG partner based in the French firm’s Paris office, responsible for encouraging the growth of our firms’ middle markets practice across Europe, Middle East and Africa, a majority of that market comprises of family businesses.

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