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Edition 191 – Gathering Moss

Family businesses are great at evolving. Often they start in the lounge room or the garage and move on to bigger and better things. The beauty of spending 30 years working with family businesses is that I’ve heard a lot of stories of how it has all started and what humble beginnings most of those family business owners have had.

The downside of evolving is that there’s plenty of family businesses that also gather. Like dust on the bookshelf or barnacles on the hull of the yacht, family businesses tend to gather people that were right at the time, but not right now.

As businesses evolve, so should the individuals in those businesses.

Roles change. People change. Technology changes. Clients change. The world changes. Heaven forbid, 20 years ago, no one had heard of Google. Now it’s a verb!

Family businesses are incredibly good at gathering people then holding onto them when they no longer serve the purpose they were originally employed for.  Sometimes, they no longer serve any purpose.

This reminds me of the time my wife worked for Sydney Water in the early to mid 90’s in what I term our BC era (Before Callum!). She would come home and tell me stories of executives that had been redeployed, for whatever reason, to a unit where they merely turned up each day, read the newspaper, and waited around long enough to be offered a redundancy package. Your tax dollars at work!

To ensure you’re running a great family business that is operating at or near peak efficiency, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Revisit your business strategy.
  2. Identify what your ideal future looks like for your family business.
  3. Look at the roles (not individuals, roles!) that need to be performed in your family business for it to achieve your ideal future. That’s right, tomorrow’s roles, not today’s.
  4. Create an organisation chart around those roles (again, not individuals!).
  5. Critique your existing team and work out where they slot into those roles.
  6. For those that slot in, identify what additional qualifications & training they will need.
  7. For those that don’t slot into your future business, you’re going to need to have a hard conversation about what their future is, where it is, and how you can help them progress to that future.

For some of you, this sounds harsh and may come across as lacking in empathy. However, I’ve seen too many businesses where:

  1. Too many people are paid to turn up – not necessarily make a contribution.
  2. Too many employees don’t evolve as the business evolves – meaning their own lack of progress is hindering the future potential of the business.

In this day and age, family businesses don’t have the luxury of holding onto staff merely because it’s the right thing to do. Running a family business is not a charity. It’s serious stuff where you, as the owner or manager, not making the right call about the people you need in your business could be the difference between survival and oblivion.

If you need to move people on in your family business, you can do it in a way that is empathetic, supportive and has their best interests at heart. It’s all about how you do it.