Edition 104 – Known Quantities

Amongst the family businesses that I know and work with, a pattern is already emerging in 2018 – known quantities.

So, what is a known quantity? Put simply, it is someone you know and trust and are willing to bring into your business as an employee to help you move from where you are to where you want to be.

Known quantities work very well in family businesses when the family are employed. Everyone knows everyone else. All the personalities are figured out. For the most part, the employed family members know what they’re going to be in for when they work for the family. Nothing should be a surprise.

The downside to that is that sometimes, some family members say yes to the offer of employment out of laziness – even though they know their Uncle is a tyrannical maniac and they don’t really like him anyway. However, more fool the lazy family member for saying yes to the position is what I say.

Let me relay four situations that I’ve seen this year where known quantities have come into play:

  1. The electrical contracting business that is looking to recruit the owner’s mother-in-law into a key administration function in the business. Her skills are known and she will provide a strong support base whilst the owner’s wife takes maternity leave mid year.
  2. The food services business that has recently appointed a friend of the owner to the role of General Manager. The new GM was employed 12 months ago into a sub-management role – with very clearly outlined expectations as to the role to be performed, and the nature of the friendship and employment relationships.
  3. That same business that is looking to recruit a former client that has been known for 20 years, into a sales role. The business owner has made the effort over that period to maintain contact even when the individual was no longer a client.
  4. The custom furniture business that kept in contact with a good, former member of staff, who just so happened to pop in the door one day to say hello, and was offered her former position back.

In each of these situations, I’m confident the known quantity will work out for the following reasons:

  1. The personalities on both sides of the relationship are understood. Neither party will have to spend the first three months getting to know each other.
  2. Trust is already implicit in the relationship.
  3. Both sides can be perfectly honest with each other about expectations and performance, because they don’t need to do the “politically correct fair work dance” – the one where you’re both at ten paces not knowing what to say, or how to say it, when things don’t quite work out.

So, next time you’re thinking of recruiting for a position, why not consider the known quantities in your life. Your phone call may just come at the right time for both of you.


This Week’s Tip

“To make the recruitment of a known quantity work, you must place all your cards on the table. If you hold anything close to your chest, you’re turning potential success into an irrecoverable nightmare.”

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