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When you have an idea for the family business it can be a daunting task to try and convince other shareholders of the validity of your plans especially if you are a young family business member. How can you prepare your argument in a way that will convince others? How do you manage your image as a family member to convince and not bias others against you?
Passion, great ideas and enthusiasm alone are not enough. When coming into a family business you need a number of other things in your armory.
Your arrival into the business isn’t always viewed positively – by family both in and out of the business and also other employees. It is therefore essential to be ready and prepared. Just because someone may have spent school holidays helping in the business isn’t sufficient preparation on its own.
One of the most important ways that people convince me about their arrival into their family’s business is to spend some time considering why they are joining it and for who. Many people have never stopped and considered who they are joining the business for – their parents perhaps? The reason must be because you really want to. Take time to process this because once you’re in it’s not an easy path, so you have to be fully committed.
The next vital point is to be clear about what you are going to do in your role at the family business. Being appointed because of your bloodline is not going to get you very far so what is the task you will perform and how will this add value to the business?
Then consider what gaps exist for you and how you can create a strategy to gather information, training and development. This should include everything from the technical and specific aspects required, through to legal, health and safety, and financial appreciation. I would always recommend that anyone entering the family business especially when aiming at joining the board, must have attended training to understand their duties.
Having given these areas a little thought it’s important to the founders and incumbent generation that you can demonstrate your understanding of the business and its legacy. Being able to acknowledge the past and how they have arrived at a place which allows you to become part of it, is important. Remember that the stories of yesterday create the dreams of tomorrow and the opportunities of today – how will you demonstrate your appreciation of this? Even better is if you can start to respectfully show your thinking around today and tomorrow while embracing the hard work of those that have gone before you.
Joining a family business means you have to go through an “exchange zone” between the past and the future. Tread carefully and with empathy and consideration. What will the future look like and how will you bring value to the shareholders?
So how do you now bring this all together? Well, I remember vividly being sent away to build a document to present to the board covering many of these areas. The process and time to do this is just as valuable to you and the family / business as the end result will be.
If you are ambitious and wish to contribute to the growth and future of the business, benefiting from it along the way, then this is the right thing to do. As a future business leader or executive you should be able to pull together such a document and present it. It will allow you to demonstrate a thoughtful, thorough and impactful approach not just to the family and board but to the wider employees.
Imagine you’re in their shoes; if they were being asked to support you what questions and concerns would you have? Prepare for that. Show them how you will be monitored and developed, not just in the short term, but beyond. Consider any objections and prepare a suitable and professional response.
This is the opportunity for you to shine and lay your own foundation – it’s an exciting time and you should make the most of it.
In the future you may want or need to have the backing of the family and board for a number of reasons and so this will help prepare you for even more challenging times when their support is essential.