WHEN the people you have business meetings with are the same people you eat Sunday night dinner with, the line between work and play can grow blurry.
It's a problem the Johnstone family, of Johnstone's Barbecues & Parts in North Vancouver, knows all too well.
"We would all get together and we would talk about work, or we would go to have a meeting upstairs and we would end up talking about Nana," said general manager Serena Johnstone.
But she says the family has developed strategies to better separate work and personal life since joining the Canadian Association of Family Enterprise last year.
The non-profit organization, with 5,500 members across Canada, promotes the well-being and success of family businesses by bringing families together to share their knowledge and experiences.
"It's really nice to sit in a room with a bunch of people that you know are facing similar battles," Serena said of CAFE's personal advisory groups. "(Family business) is all about relationships and remembering that there's a time and a place for family behaviour, and there's a time and a place for business behaviour."
The Johnstones also take advantage of CAFE's Road Map program, which is intended to facilitate family business succession from one generation to the next.
Johnstone's Barbecues & Parts was founded by Gary Johnstone in 1975 as an appliance parts and repairs store. The business has evolved over the years and, since 2003, has focused on the sale of its core products - barbecues and barbecue accessories.
Today, Gary's eldest son Jamie (Serena's husband) is the store's service manager. His other son Adam takes care of the business's information technology needs.
"If everything goes as planned, we would like to maintain it as the family business. Gary will probably work here forever, but in a lesser capacity," Serena said.
Keeping the store in the family is important to both the Johnstones and their customers.
"It makes us very dedicated to making sure the business functions well. It makes us want to be a part of the community," Serena said. "Customers really like it too, because they can come back five years later and they see the same people here."
Jane O'Connor, managing director of the CAFE Vancouver Region chapter, which has 428 members, says family business succession has become a national issue as the baby boomers retire.
"One of the challenges is how does that first generation pass that business down to the second generation and the third generation," she said.
According to CAFE, only 30 per cent of family businesses survive into the second generation. The organization hopes to increase the successful transition rate by connecting families with resources and support, and facilitating open communication among family members.
O'Connor said 80 per cent of businesses in Canada are family run, from the small mom-and-pop corner stores, to national giants such as McCain Foods and Rogers Communications. Collectively, they generate some $150 billion for the Canadian economy.
"That's a lot of money. We need to keep them healthy and we need to make sure the succession is working," O'Connor said.
Visit cafecanada.ca for more information.