I recently facilitated a meeting of five business owners, all of whom lead a business with other family members involved. They were gathered to share best (and worst) practices based on their own experiences. The discussion focused on bringing the next generation into the business, and preparing them to take the helm. Here are the most significant truths that emerged:
- The next-generation family member should start out “mopping the floors”. They need to earn the respect of other employees.
- Establish the discipline from Day One of differentiating between “talking business” as employer-employee, and “talking personal” as mother-son.
- A young family member in their teens entering the business, even on a part time basis, creates special challenges. Their lack of real-world work experience makes it harder for them to understand the necessary separation between family and business relationships.
- They need exposure, over time, to all areas of the business. Ascertain whether the organization can compensate for their weaknesses and allow them to play to their strengths if and when they assume the leadership position. Be willing to accept the fact that they may not be cut out to eventually run the business.
- You must manage your expectations, which may be distorted because you are personally close to the family member. Allow them to surprise or disappoint you, and make necessary adjustments to your expectations and plans as they do.
- Differentiate between compensation and business ownership. Compensate based on contribution to business results. Allocate ownership based on any family considerations you deem to be fair.
Running a business is challenging. Leading a family business adds another layer of complexity which only family business owners can fully appreciate.
It’s been my experience that many CEO’s either omit or give short shrift to three major parts of their annual business plan. The first is how they wrestle through Critical Success Factors. These links between the upfront analytical sections of your plan and the downstream implementation sections provide a solid reality check against your objectives. They also force you to consider all reasonable alternative strategies for achieving your major objectives. Continue reading
In the holiday season just past, I often heard one of my favorite Christmas songs. The lyrics incorporate three questions:
- Do you see what I see?
- Do you hear what I hear?
- Do you know what I know?
While the poetry and melody surrounding the three questions are lovely, my mind occasionally drifts to the application of these questions to the life of the CEO. With regard to your employees, be aware that they do not see what you see; they do not hear what you hear; they do not know what you know.
This is an especially relevant point at the beginning of a new year. Continue reading
Have you ever thought about how important your understanding of motivation is to your success as a CEO? Consider…
Effective selling requires understanding why a particular customer is “shopping”.
Effective marketing demands effectively communicating why your company does what it does.
Effective leadership requires your understanding why your partners and employees get out of bed to come to work in the morning.
Most important of all, why do you put so much energy into your company? And how clearly have you communicated this purpose to your audiences?
The better grip you can get on why, the better CEO you will be. Suggested reading: Start with Why by Simon Sinek.
I participate in leading a program for business owners that is offered by the Delaware Small Business Technology and Development Center (SBTDC). The participants meet once a week for three hours over a six week period. During that time they become engaged in a thoughtful analysis of their business and of their plan for that business. The SBTDC calls this their Business Development Network.
This program covers the fundamentals of running and ultimately exiting a successful business. While I was listening to Carla Holland (shown in photo) launch another six-week series recently, I made a list of the basic concepts she discussed in that first session. They are listed below. Continue reading
Jackson Hole Paragliding
Have you ever jumped off a mountain tethered to a piece of fabric? Tandem paragliding has a lot in common with business ownership. If you have launched your own business, or have bought a business, or have made a decision to redirect, or turnaround, or chart a new course for your business, you can understand the parallel.
First off, you cannot do it alone. Continue reading
Which one is the professional?
You lead a business and, in that role, you employ many natural skills. However, the job probably requires some skills that don’t come so naturally to you, but which you can hone through practice. But what does this have to do with the photo displayed here? Continue reading
What’s the most difficult job in the world? Raise that question the next time you gather socially with friends. Bet you get a lot of discussion.
The job of CEO should be at least a finalist in the discussion. Any CEO job, large or small, presents the challenge of bringing many things together. I’ve been reminded of this recently in my readings of The CEO Code by David Rohlander and The Alignment Factor by Allen E. Fishman. Rohlander attempts to encompass the responsibilities of the CEO by organizing them into three broad categories: communication, execution, and operations. Fishman’s categories are commitment, communication, culture, and collaboration.
If you are the owner and CEO of a small to midsize business, you have an appreciation of the breadth of skills required to build and sustain a successful enterprise. More likely than not, you understand the magnetic pull of the daily urgent demands that would keep you from maintaining the long view – from developing your key employees – from identifying future opportunities and threats. Each author takes a slightly different approach to defining the job and inviting action on the part of the reader. Rohlander has provided what might be considered an abbreviated handbook on the role of CEO. Fishman has focused on the strategies and actions that provide alignment of people throughout the organization. Both works deserve your attention.
A truly successful CEO is able to combine really big thinking with down and dirty execution. I’ve been fortunate in my career to have had two bosses who worked that combination well.
I was reminded of the power of this combo a couple years ago when my son recommended a book by Howard Bloom titled, The Genius of the Beast: A Radical Re-Vision of Capitalism. This one is filled with big ideas. I wondered how many American CEOs were reading it. Here are a few pithy excerpts: Continue reading
A dear friend was recently told by her physician that her cancer had returned…and that she probably would not survive six months. My friend sought a second and third opinion, after which the diagnosis was changed substantially. While she does indeed have a recurrence of cancer, the type is significantly different from the original diagnosis. It is treatable without harsh chemicals or radiation, and the new prognosis is for many additional years of life. Can you imagine the emotional roller coaster she’s been on?
A misdiagnosis can be tragic in any situation, even when it applies to your business. As CEO, how can you minimize the chance of this type of mistake? Continue reading