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Edition 45 – The Golden Ticket

A few months ago, I wandered through the lounge room as Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was playing on the television. If you remember the story, Charlie wins one of the five golden tickets, a win that changed his life and that of his family, forever.

Every day, I come across family business owners and managers that keep looking for the golden ticket. The big win that will “make” their business. Except, what strikes me as odd is that none of these people are “losing”. They are already winning, in most cases. It’s just they can’t see it.

I walk into family businesses and observe the good stuff that happens every day.  I see what is rolling through the door and hear the conversations taking place. Without fail, I see enormous potential in every single family business. Huge potential. Not in the golden ticket stuff, but in what most family business owners would consider the mundane, the day-to-day.

I recently met with a client that was looking at an opportunity in their business.  The opportunity, if successful, has the ability to take the business to a new level. It will encourage the development of some very valuable intellectual property and could well change the face of an industry. Understandably, the client is excited.

However, whilst this opportunity has been bubbling away in the background, they’ve missed out on a number of well paying, easy opportunities that generate good profit, great cashflow and keep the machines ticking over.

To date, this opportunity has been 18 months in the making. 18 months they’ve not focussed on the bread and butter of the business. 18 months where they have needed to develop some new intellectual property, which costs money, time and energy. And, we don’t yet know how long it will be before this opportunity could finally come to fruition.

There are many reasons why work in their traditional field wasn’t chased. However, if I was to summarise it, I’d boil it down to:

  1. The owners were bored with the business.
  2. The lure of something bright and shiny took their focus off the day-to-day of the business.
  3. Their drive for the Golden Ticket created a trickle down effect in the business – as the owners saw the every day as mundane, so did everyone else.
  4. The owners had not taken the opportunity to step outside their business and look back int as if they were an outsider.

The mundane, day to day opportunities, if nurtured and developed, could end up providing bigger, long term rewards than the Golden Ticket ever could.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for innovation, development and progress in family business. However, it needs to be viewed in the context of:

  1. What will it add to the business?
  2. What will it cost the business in terms of finances and time?
  3. Is the business currently set up to do the day-to-day work in a systemised, orderly fashion?
  4. Is there sufficient management capacity in the business to allow the owners to research, develop and innovate new opportunities?
  5. What does a business case for the new opportunity look like?
  6. What does the business need to do to move from proof of concept, through design, into commercialisation?

If most family businesses employed as much effort in pursuing the mundane, day-to-day business opportunities, they may well find the booty is richer and more enduring than merely searching for that one Golden Ticket.

This Week’s Tip

The next time you walk in the door of your family business, take a moment to consider the Golden Tickets that are littered everywhere, and the opportunity that is boundless within.