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Is a family like a company or like a symphony?

An Eyre family reunion.
An Eyre family reunion.
Eyre Family

Editor’s note: This is the first of two columns on alternate paradigms for family. Read the second column installment: Family is much like a symphony

Is a family like a company or like a symphony?

The two of us realized fairly early on that while we agreed on what a family should be, we had very different conceptual or metaphorical ways of viewing what a family was. Our paradigms were not necessarily opposed to each other; in fact, we like to think they were synergistic. But they certainly weren’t the same.

As we shared our family frameworks with each other, trying to understand and benefit from the other, it occurred to us one night that I (Richard) essentially viewed a family through an organizational or management lens — almost as though it were a business or a company — and I (Linda) looked at family more through the frame of music — of the pursuit of harmony and with the metaphor of a symphony. We will explore Richard’s paradigm this week and Linda’s the next.

The family compared to a company (Richard)

Perhaps I’ve had too much business-school training, but I really do tend to view families a little like companies. I feel they need a lot of the same things to succeed and that they are both “in business” for some of the same essential reasons.

Here is a list of “10 things a company needs to succeed,” with each of the items applied instead to families:

A viable product. Kids are the most important product a family produces, and they are most viable if they are raised to be good leaders — to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

Clear goals and mission statement. Family goals should be centered on what we want from life and what matters most.

Clear priorities. There are a lot of trade-offs in families, but if we prioritize relationships over achievements, we will always be right.

Employee involvement and feedback mechanisms. Kids grow most when parents involve them and really listen to both their inputs and their gripes.

Manufacturing plan and process. Parents had better have a parenting plan and strategy and a process of best practices if they want to produce great kids.

Good work environment. A home made pleasant in appearance and ambiance makes everything that happens inside a little bit better.

Corporate loyalty. Family members need to put each other first, from kids attending siblings' games and activities whenever possible to parents giving kids the benefit of the doubt.

A code of correct conduct in the workplace. Families need a clear set of rules with consistent consequences.

Sound financing and accounting. In addition to adequate financial stability, families need an “in-home economy” where kids have responsibility and accountability for certain tasks and can earn “their own money.”

Established traditions and rituals.Like employees in a company, kids need to feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves and that there are predictable patterns and enjoyed traditions.

Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit them anytime at or Their latest Deseret e-book is “On the Homefront."