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Edition 155 – The Glitter on Your Nose

I love the dynamic of working with family business. Mums and Dads, Sons and Daughters, Cousins, Aunties and Uncles. It’s a different environment where familiarity can sometimes lead to things occurring that you may not otherwise expect.

I was working with one of my great clients recently, where we hold a monthly management meeting. Part way through the meeting, right at a crucial point of the discussion, Mum leans over to Dad and asks “what’s that glitter on your nose?” 

Right at that point, the meeting was gone! However, it turned even more personal as, after Dad enquired “what glitter”, Mum proceeded to reach over and dust the glitter off Dad’s nose until he looked pristine – and more management looking.

We quickly got back on track and proceeded to discuss the key issues in the business at that time. However, it brought home to me the realisation that when you work with family businesses, you’re dealing with a relationship unlike any other. What would otherwise be decorum in a business meeting, is not even on the radar in a family business environment, and vice versa. Could you imagine the Chairman of BHP reaching over in a Board Meeting and, not only pointing out an incorrection in someone’s appearance, but actually rectifying it in front of all the other Directors?

Whilst the dynamic of family business is different, the conversation is different and the way we talk to each other is very familiar (including the use of pet names, in my experience), there are elements of a regular board meeting that should be the same, whether it is a family business or a listed company.

The meeting should:

  1. Have a formal agenda.
  2. Review KPIs.
  3. Review Financial Performance.
  4. Review Sales and Marketing initiatives (including successes and failures).
  5. Review Operations – from the helicopter level, not the nuts and bolts level.
  6. Review HR & Administration – with specific emphasis on only bringing to the meeting the key issues, not the full details of every day’s episode of Home and Away.
  7. Review the business’ progress towards achieving its strategy.
  8. Deal only with the higher level issues in the business – not the “in the trenches” stuff – which it is easy to deviate towards in a family business.
  9. Set actions and accountabilities.

The businesses that I work with that are making forward progress meet formally, monthly or quarterly, and usually bring someone from outside to chair the meeting. 

Both the regularity of the meeting and the obligation to a third party means the meeting is rarely cancelled. In addition, everyone has given consideration to what is happening in the business in the lead up to the meeting – both from the perspective of the role they play in the business as well as the business as a whole.

For families to prosper in their family business, they need to formalise elements of it. Reviewing where it’s at now, where you want it to be and honestly reviewing ongoing performance is something that should be formalised, and diarised.

This Week’s Tip

How often are you meeting, formally, with each other and discussing the current performance and future direction of your business? Who, from outside, are you bringing into the meeting to contribute a different perspective?