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Edition 150 – It’s Time to Get Selfish

In my 30 years of working with family businesses, my experience is that most owners and managers care a lot for their staff. There are very few Scrooges that I’ve come across in my career, and very few tyrants. Quite often it’s the opposite. 

Allowing staff to have time off at short notice to attend to family duties – done that.
Loaning money to staff who can’t wait until pay day – seen that happen. 
Presents and celebrations for milestone birthdays at significant cost to the business – done that one as well.
A client of mine recently had to deal with an employee situation which I know challenged their belief system and conflicted with their personality style. In doing so, they had to make the decision to be selfish and put themselves first over the welfare of a single staff member. 
Here’s the story.
This family business had taken on a new manager. This was the first time this new manager had worked in this specific industry, but they’d worked in similar roles previously.
The staff member came to the role well credentialed. They’d been reference checked. The recruitment crowd sang their praises – and charged accordingly. The lump was swallowed and the family business owners welcomed this new, senior, expensive recruit into the organisation.
The first few weeks seem to go alright – probably a bit slower than would be preferred, but there was progress. Shortly afterwards, things started to go a little pear shaped. The owner was starting to notice things not happening – important things that were part of the job description.
Excuses started to flow around the things that weren’t happening. Systems were weak – apparently. Other staff weren’t helping – allegedly. Trying to get their head around the specifics of the industry – it was hard! Excuses are, ultimately, excuses – they aren’t reasons.
In this family business relationship, Dad was the one who was at the coalface each day. I’d define his personality style as humanitarian. He’s compassionate with a capital C. All the time, whilst his frustration was building about the under performance of the new hire, he was concerned for this person’s welfare. Mum, who’d stepped back a little, felt his pain – and was as understanding and caring as he was.
The issue is that sometimes in business, you need to be as hard as a rock when it comes to managing staff – and not be like plasticine.
Ultimately, the under performance continued and these family business owners had to make a challenging call. They had to put themselves first. By doing so, these family business owners:

  1. Recognised that whilst ever they tried to make an underperforming manager happy, they were making themselves unhappy.
  2. Recognised the business was suffering with a staff member that was making excuses, none of them that related to the person that stared back at them from the mirror.
  3. Recognised this person was creating ructions with other staff and, in the process, was putting at risk the welfare and employment longevity of those other staff members.

When we communicated immediately after the termination was effected, I asked them how they were. “Flat” was the reply. My response – “flat” is understandable for your personality type. However, ultimately, you’ve made the right decision for yourselves, the individual, your staff and your business.
In the moment, it’s difficult. On reflection, it will be a good decision. The day will pass and the pain of having to make a tough decision will evaporate. Yes, it’s selfish. However, it’s merely another step on the journey of being in family business.

This Week’s Tip

To succeed in family business, there are times when you, as the owner or manager, need to be selfish. It’s the best thing for everyone – not just you.