How one BBQ joint strikes balance between work and family

Small business lessons from a mom-and-pop BBQ joint

At Shuler's Barbecue in South Carolina, it's all about family. From the home-cooked food to the familial atmosphere, kinship is infused in the Southern barbecue joint.

"When they walk into Shuler's, I want [customers] to experience the fellowship that we have, that Norton and I have in a marriage," Lynn Hughes said. "I want them to understand that once they walk into our business, they're now part of the family. … We love our family. And we want them to be a part of our family."

Her husband, Norton Hughes, added, "When you have your family at work with you, while it can have its problems, it is great, because if you're here 10 hours, 12 hours a day, you don't miss them. I mean, you aren't missing them. They're here with you."

But that also can be a bad thing.

"There's too much, sometimes, of a good thing and sometimes that has explosion written all over it," said Wayne Rivers, president of the Family Business Institute, in an interview last year.

Rivers advised members of family businesses to focus on four different parts of their lifestyle to manage a work-life-balance and avoid feeling burned out

"It's about making sure you are a broad human being and making sure you're taking care of you spiritual side, your emotional side, your physical side and your nuclear family side," he said.

Having a happy marriage is a lot of work, but if all of your hard work is devoted to the business, then there's no hard work left over for the marriage.
Wayne Rivers
President, Family Business Institute

One way family business owners can alleviate pressure and improve efficiency is by hiring more staff.

Family-run companies "tend to be too cheap when it comes to hiring people," Rivers said. "They say, 'Well, we can't pay people to do that.' But you are — you're paying yourself."

The investment from Marcus Lemonis, serial entrepreneur and host of CNBC's "The Profit," helped the Hughes family build a large general store onto the restaurant, a gift shop, banquet hall and a full-service bakery.

His investment also went toward expanding Shuler's kitchen, something that Norton Hughes said is the "biggest efficiency machine" that they've put in.

The restaurant is also in talks with a major retailer to sell its biscuits on a mass scale.

Another challenge family business owners face is working with one's spouse, Rivers said. He noted that "if all of your hard work is devoted to the business, then there's no hard work left over for the marriage."

To combat the problem, Norton Hughes said he and Lynn prepared themselves with the mindset of getting along no matter what came their way.

"We aren't going to let it drive us apart. And some businesses do. I've seen families driven apart by business," he said. "But if you trust each other, and you get in and you love the business and you both have a passion for it, then I would say get out and do it."

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the spelling of Shuler's Barbecue.

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