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Edition 106 – Everyone’s a Winner

No, I’m not talking today about the 1978 classic by Hot Chocolate which, by the way, still sounds good today when you’re out cruising around with the windows down and the volume cranked up.

I’m talking about the decisions that owners and managers make in family business when it comes time to moving people on. Let me explain.

In my old accounting practice days, my then business partner and I made a decision to recruit a General Manager. The aim was the new GM would take over the administration roles so that we could focus on looking after our clients. It started off well but turned bumpy six months in. We persevered but still weren’t seeing the performance that we had been expecting, or indeed promised at the interview. It came to a head in our regular weekly meeting one Monday when the GM proceeded to offer some unsolicited feedback about me and my management style. I listened to what the GM had to say, but detected an overall undercurrent of unhappiness about the role, our business and his place in it. Here’s how the conversation played out:

Me – “Joe, aren’t you happy working here in this role?”
Joe – “Not really!”
Me – “So, have you been looking for roles elsewhere?”
Joe – Stammering a little – “Well, as a matter of fact, yes, I have.”
Me- “Well, Joe, if you’re not happy here, and we’re not happy with your performance, and you’ve been looking elsewhere for work, why wouldn’t we help you get happy?”
Joe – “Aah, what do you mean?”
Me – “Joe, I’m happy to act as a referee for you so that helps you to secure a new role.”
Joe – “You’d do that.”
Me – “Absolutely – there’s no point all of us being unhappy, so let’s solve the problem.”

And, with that, Joe was gone within a fortnight and headed into a new GM role in the business sector that he had exited to join our practice. Joe won – he left a job he was unhappy in and headed off to a new role where he could find happiness. We won – we exited an employee who had over-promised and under-delivered. And, no doubt, his new employer was happy – they grabbed an experienced and valuable candidate to fulfill an important role.

I’ve seen another business adopt a similar approach to a different situation. The performance of a long standing staff member had dropped off as the business underwent change. The relationship between the owner and this staff member, whilst certainly not combative, had dropped off the highs that it had experienced when times were good. The business owner was torn as to what to do – mainly because the owner cared very much for this person, their family and felt for the personal and financial consequences of any decision to move them on.

This family business owner thought long and hard, then started conversations with some people they knew in their industry whom they felt the long standing member of staff would be a good fit for. Eventually, a colleague expressed some interest, the owner spoke with the employee about the current state of play and that a solution had been identified by moving to a colleague’s business. Long story short, today, that employee is very happy in their new role; the business colleague is happy they found someone with a skill set they were lacking; and the business owner is happy they have been able to move on an employee that no longer fit in their business, and didn’t prejudice their welfare in the process.

Sometimes in family business, taking difficult decisions can lead to everyone being a winner.

This Week’s Tip

“When one party in a relationship is not happy, it is up to both parties to work through that process – which sometimes involves one of them moving on.”