In a previous article, I addressed the importance of assets in any successful business. These assets are more than just property, goods, and cash – they include the intangible skills, values, and priorities that are a fundamental part of your successful family business.
When it comes to running a business as a family – one that you hope will survive generations – your greatest asset is your family bond and the intellectual capital you create…together. The most successful family businesses aren’t just run by one individual; they are the result of collective skills, input, and ideas that make it an entity best evolve by the collective.
Regardless of whether education is through higher learning or life experiences, that wealth of information is a reservoir from which the family can draw to help overcome unexpected challenges that are inevitable in every business cycle.
The trick is to tap into this potential and not take it for granted – which is a lot easier said than done. As a family, you bring into the boardroom dynamics and baggage that you might have grown up with. Family knows how to press each other’s buttons (double-edged sword) and you limits with each other. The trick is to nurture the best and drop the rest.
The following are four critical factors in helping family do just that – help nurture the best in everyone and benefit from the rewards as a result:
1. Encourage Passion
Anything you do that turns into a business, no matter how much you love it, is going to become work; you will last longer if you love it, but you’re not going to enjoy it all of the time. The same holds true across every profession, no matter how fun the job may seem. Find something around you to dream about. Find something you love in what you already do, and be adamant about balancing work and play.
In family business, this is an incredibly important asset. While you may not love every aspect of what you do, it is likely that there’s some part of the business that speaks to your passions. And if there isn’t, you might be able to create it and ultimately improve the business because of it. There is something to love in everything in this world, even the ugliest, dirtiest jobs. And when you find that small joy, you can build on it, slowly at first and then more and more, until you can bring it into balance with the rest of your job.
Help yourself and other family members discover and cultivate passions within and outside of the business. The result will be a happier and healthier family dynamic AND business.
2. Help Foster Better Communication
For as long as I can remember, my father told me, “You have two eyes, two ears, and one mouth, so you have to talk less and observe and listen more.”The ability to openly communicate and resolve conflict amicably within a range of situations, including a family business, is vital. Business after family business has split because of a poor communication.
Conflict is inevitable, no matter how well your family gets along or how well your family constitution is written. It is how your family handles it and how well they work through challenges that speaks to the strength of your family’s unity and trust in each other. Each voice must have a means to be heard. Fortunately, even as family businesses spread, with many reaching across countries and continents, the ability to communicate has gotten easier.
Be a part of leading discussions where everyone is heard, where individuals can voice concerns and frustrations or offer ideas and solutions. Open communication will strengthen your family bond and your ability to whether difficult challenges in and out of the business.
3. Be Flexible
Another instrumental intangible asset is the ability to learn from and adjust to new situations. I have seen this firsthand in our family’s ability to adapt to a number of countries, cultures and languages – opening avenues of business we wouldn’t have originally thought possible.
For me, that asset has manifested in learning to be flexible about things while working under different conditions with in the family business, including jumping on airplanes and giving presentations at the drop of a hat. It even provided me with the opportunity to learn a new language, though I didn’t see it as much of an opportunity at the time.
When you’re flexible, adaptable and willing to learn new things, you’ll be amazed how that can manifest itself in the form of success for your business either immediately or in the future at some point.
4. Embrace Family Values
The first year after my father passed away, I found myself competing with a giant. “What did my mentor do in his lifetime? How can I continue to evolve and learn and grow as he did?” I asked myself and then tried to do what I thought he would have done.
But as much as any of us may try, we can’t compete with the heroes of the past. What I concluded was that I could live by our family values and allow those values to be the ethical driving force behind how I conduct myself and how we run our businesses as a family.
In family business, identifying and stating your values loud and clear in your family constitution and living by them every day in your word and deed sets a clear precedent for team members and gives your clients faith in your company.