Running the Family Business

Richard Citrin Ph.D., MBA
Richard Citrin Ph.D., MBA

My first foray into a family run business happened early in my life when I use to help out my mom and dad at their small retail paint store. I greeted customers, helped them find the right kind of paint and even got to work with the paint shaking machine, which was the most fun. There was something satisfying but challenging about running a family business, but it was obviously not in my parent’s genes as they gave it up for successful corporate careers.

I’ve been working with a number of family businesses lately and while they face the challenges of every business, being a family concern adds an additional layer of complexity and enjoyment. There is no leaving work at the office, but you also get to hang around with loved ones (for better or worse.)

In working with them, I’ve discovered 5 few keys to helping them grow and thrive.

  • Be a business: A successful business runs like a business. Create strategy, develop workplace processes, and monitor successes and failures. You don’t want to cut corners because “we’re just a family business.”
  • Honest Conversations: Carrying family dynamics into the workplace is inevitable both good and bad. Engage in honest conversations and set limits where necessary. Get a consultant to facilitate those discussions.
  • Honor the Family Values: Family members will want to see themselves as owners and investors. Holding the same DNA places a special responsibility on each family member to think and act on the family’s best interest.
  • Know Who Decides: In a vacuum of clarity, uncertainty reigns supreme. The key owner should make it clear how ideas are socialized, how decisions are made and who is empowered to make them.
  • Put the best people in the proper roles: Competency and not seniority is the key metric for advancement. This isn’t about the Royal Family’s lineage deciding who is King; it is about what is best for the business.

The oldest family business is the Japanese hotel Hoshi Ryokan which dates back to the year 718. They attribute their successful passage of 74 generations of family members to the business as their adherence to the family value of trust, which is not a bad approach to running any business.

Your Focus this Week: If you run or are involved with a family business, take a look at how your family members work together and highlight your strengths and opportunities as a family. Find your gaps and build a plan to address them. Give me a call if you need ideas and support.

© Richard Citrin, All rights reserved, 2019


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