You’ve seen the feuds on shows like Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares and Hotel Hell. A son tries to give his dad new ideas on how the restaurant should be run, and before you know it, a screaming match breaks out and pans go flying across the room.
Family companies face their own particular challenges that other companies don’t have to deal with. That’s why it’s vital for family-owned companies to have strong and structured leadership so that they can scale faster.
Here are four leadership hacks all successful family-owned companies need.
With family-owned businesses, it’s more important than ever for each employee and leader to have clear roles and for each person to know what happens within those roles. This leaves little room for questions about who is in charge and what processes need to happen. For example, just because you’re the big brother at home and can throw your weight around doesn’t mean that you’re in charge of the family company. When you’re in the business, you might have to answer to your little sister who is in charge of the team. The more you try to overshadow her with big brother antics and buck her authority, the more the business is going to suffer.
If you’re going to work in the family company, you have to understand and respect the roles everyone else has. Nonfamily employees will be looking to family employees to see the type of behavior that’s expected of them. If you don’t have family members following the leader and doing what they’re supposed to be doing, you can bet other employees will follow suit. This undermines the growth of the business and cannot happen.
Make sure you have all roles clearly defined, that it is clear who the leaders are, and what behavior is expected from other family members in non-leadership positions (including consequences for not following protocol). This will come across to other employees as respect for leadership and will make the leaders in the company easier to follow.
Growth & Training
In family-owned businesses, tradition can reign supreme—especially if the company has been around for multiple generations. Tradition can be a good thing, especially when it comes to systems and processes that work. However, it’s important that both employees and leadership continue to grow their professional skill sets so that the company can scale further.
What got you here won’t necessarily take you to where you want to go next. So make sure your family’s company stays ahead of the trends by investing in training that can help you grow the business and deliver even better results or products to your customers.
This is one of the most important leadership skills to remember and practice when it comes to family-owned companies. Leaders understand that the only constant is change, and in order to stay on top, you have to be flexible and shift. Great leaders listen to their employees and carefully weigh what they have to say.
The leader’s job isn’t to come up with the next big idea—it’s their job to nurture and recognize the next big idea.
The more open-minded you are with your team, the more they’ll come to you with their ideas and solutions. This will stretch and exercise your team’s innovative abilities, keeping them in a state of consistent growth and high performance. So when someone in your family-owned company comes to you (even if it’s your annoying little cousin), listen to what they have to say and weigh if their insight might truly be what your company needs.
Growing up you may have heard this phrase, “Do what I say, not what I do.” This is a phrase that is still common in many family-owned companies. But strong leaders model the behavior they want to see from their employees.
Do you want your team to show up on time, ask questions, and bring solutions to the table? Do you want your team to be engaged in their work and grow their skills?
Look at how you’re showing up in the business and take note of what things you need to change to set the standard you expect to see from your employees. Then, provide opportunities for them to follow your lead.
This could be bringing in consultants or trainers to help your employees learn or hone their skills. It could be implementing a new reward system for showing up early or on time to work. You could even praise your people for asking questions or presenting solutions.
Whatever you choose to do, make sure you’re looking at how you can reward your employees for doing what you want them to do, and how you can uphold that standard in your own behavior.