At AdviCoach, we’ve written numerous articles about running an existing family-owned and operated business. But for the purposes of this article, we want to reach out to the younger generations that have recently taken over a family business, that are going through the transition, or that are being primed for the much-anticipated takeover.
If you’re like a lot of our clients, you’ve grown up in a family that has always owned a company, or at least your family has owned the business for a good part of your life. As such, you’re accustomed to the long hours, talking about the business at the dining table and over morning coffee, and everyone making sacrifices for the sake of the business.
Now that your first generation of family leaders have put in years of service to build the family business, it’s successful and you see no reason to start your own company or reinvent the wheel. Sure, you could start a business from scratch and build your own empire, but what’s the point? The family business is a tradition, a legacy, and you’re honored to take it over.
Challenges of Taking Over the Family Business
Whenever the next generation takes over the family business, there are challenges; it’s rarely a piece of cake, which is why it’s helpful to know what you’re up against. After coaching countless clients who’ve taken over family businesses, here’s what we have learned to be true:
You Must Be Humble
There is a possibility that you are going to be younger than some, if not a lot of the staff. You may have the opportunity to take over because of your family ties, but don’t let that get in the way of you showing your appreciation for your employees. Show them that you care about having a thriving company culture because it’s vital to continued success.
Show up early, dress professionally, stay late if you have to, and don’t be afraid to get your clothes dirty. Remember, you may be the boss, but you must be willing to do any job in the company, and there’s no task or position that you’re too good for.
Our advice is to go all in. Even as the boss, start from the bottom rungs of the ladder and work your way up until you understand every aspect of the business well. The only way to earn your staff’s respect is to work hard; to show them you will learn the business from the inside out, and no job is below you.
Apply Your Strengths
You have certain strengths that bring value to the business. For example, you may be a numbers guy or gal, or a “people person” who works well with the employees or customers. Whatever your strengths are, apply them to the business.
Though you should learn every aspect of the business, realize that you won’t be great at everything. What do you bring to the table? Focus on that, something no one has done before. Use whatever value you bring to the company’s advantage, and delegate the rest.
Encourage a Positive Culture
When you take over the family business, realize that you’ll be walking into a company with existing culture. The staff will most certainly be accustomed to your predecessor’s way of doing things, and you don’t necessarily want to disrupt that if it’s working.
If you want to see the company not only continue thriving but expand and grow, respect its culture and make sure it’s positive. If it already has a strong culture, you don’t want to compromise it, but there may be many ways to enhance it.
Culture aside, the business cannot remain stagnant in regards to advances in technology, especially if it’s to evolve in a competitive marketplace. You don’t want to pull the “I’m the boss” card and force the employees to bend to your will in regard to new technology. That will only lead to resentment. If your staff is mostly millennials who are tech-savvy, these changes may be welcomed, but if your staff is older, they may be more hesitant.
Either way, the goal is to take it easy and make the staff comfortable as you incorporate the changes in technology. Ask for their feedback and encourage them to make suggestions – this will help build trust, rapport, and a teamwork atmosphere.
When businesses are handed down to the second generation, they can have a tendency to fail. You don’t have to be a statistic – practice humility and work closely with AdviCoach. Our coaches can show you how to appreciate your staff, earn their respect, and build upon the existing culture. Contact us to get started.