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Edition 118 – Pleasure and Pain

Whilst the great Australian rock band “The Divinyls” had a monster hit in the ‘80s titled “Pleasure and Pain”, I can’t help but disagree with their lead singer, Chrissie Amphlett, who professed there was a fine line between the two.

Because there isn’t!

Let me explain.

In family business, as in most things in life, we either run away from pain or run towards pleasure. Except most individuals don’t run as hard towards pleasure as they do away from pain.

Here’s some instances of what I have seen over the years and the stark contrasts between the two:

  1. Clients – most family businesses know they need to evolve their client base over time. However, if they have a large client that always orders large, they don’t do anything about diluting the proportion of their business the large client takes up until, you guessed it, the large client goes. When the client departs, the pain hits, which is usually when the key people hit the road and the phones to drum up new business.
  2. Systems – the number of owners and managers of family businesses that know they have to update their systems, review their procedures or train up staff to take on more of the basic tasks is countless. However, invariably, it’s not until a weakness is exposed, such as internal fraud, that those businesses finally recognise they need to do something – after the fact. Sort of like shutting the gate after the horse has bolted.
  3. People – whether it’s investing time and energy into developing a good staff member into a potentially great one, or, alternately, moving someone out of the business who is a constant poor performer, most owners and managers of family businesses are too slow to the task. It’s only when the future star hands in their notice, or the poor performer commits a monumental stuff up, each of which cost the business considerably, that most family businesses are spurred into action.

Time and again I’ve heard owners and managers say they have too much on their plate and they’re fed up working the long hours. When we drill down on the issue, often it’s a result of those same owners and managers not wanting to invest the time, or design the processes, or train up the staff to take this responsibility off their shoulders. They identify with the pain of the process, not the pleasure of the result and hence, do nothing.

With these family businesses, and there are plenty of them, we can put together a plan that will take the responsibility away from the owners and pass it on to other staff who have the capability and capacity, but need the structure and the investment of time to get it right. However, what ends up happening is that most of these owners and managers don’t follow through for one of three reasons:

  1. They are too impatient to develop, implement and refine the change process; or,
  2. They come to the (usually incorrect) decision that no one can do the job as well as they can – so they might as well keep doing it themselves; or,
  3. They’re scared as to what they will do with their time if someone else takes over some of their function – or heaven forbid, does it better (or faster) than they did themselves. So they take it back out of some perverse form of guilt.

At the end of the day, if things don’t change, things won’t change!

It’s a shame how many owners and managers of family businesses don’t embrace change and, as such, end up in a continuous loop of pain, not realising they themselves are the greatest impediment to their own pleasure.

This Week’s Tip

“Change is difficult, challenging and confronting. However it is also exciting, invigorating and rejuvenating for a business and for an individual. Change should not be painful if you undertake it when you can control it.”