by Susan Hileman, NWIRC Strategic Business Advisor
Achieving buy-in from senior executives and decision-makers can be difficult without clearly defined expectations, roles, targets and goals. When those “senior executives and decision-makers” are Mom and Dad, that adds another layer of complexity. The newest generation—and next generation owner—often brings talents and ideas that are different from previous generations. While sometimes increasing friction within the business, it can also pave the way to a better business and more profits when their voice is brought to the table and given opportunities to work. Here are a few that might be considered:
• Using digital technology to increase business productivity. From ERP systems to CRMs and production monitoring systems, deep rooted practices of “that’s the way we’ve always done it” and “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” are prominent when it comes to making business decisions about significant investments in digital technology. While a learning curve exists for all new processes, next generation business owners have never known life without digital technology and tend to embrace the ever-changing landscape of IT resources, seeing technology as a tool to increase knowledge, streamline decision-making and provide efficiencies.
• Achieving a work-life balance and still maintaining a successful business. Millennials want to work in a fun, family-friendly environment. Most would assume a family owned business would not have to be concerned with being “family friendly” but nepotism can exert a negative influence in the business when there are long-seated rivalries or issues left unaddressed. And while some women in family businesses have unique opportunities to balance demands, it’s common for many owners today to work 60 or more hours per week. Identifying these issues and their adverse impacts, then developing a plan to resolve them, is imperative for the health and welfare of the business—as well as that of the employees and owners of all generations.
• Strengthening the business by building diversity. From ethnicity, to gender, to age, the next generation owner recognizes that diversity brings strength to the organization. In addition to attracting new talent, a diverse workforce can provide a competitive advantage by offering new ideas and perspectives thereby providing better workable solutions. It can also present new opportunities for business growth, for example, by delivering a different approach or bridging a language gap with potential new customers.
The goal of any business owner is to position the company so the next generation owners can assume leadership and successfully continue to run the business. Yet changes in processes and culture take time. The NWIRC can objectively help family businesses clearly define expectations, roles and goals to navigate these waters with success. Incremental steps can be developed to insure next generation owners feel the freedom to take on new responsibilities, gain skills and provide positive contributions into the business.
Susan Hileman is a Strategic Business Advisor at NWIRC. She is a Galliard trained Family Business Advisor, an Innovation Engineering Green Belt, and has degrees in Business Management and Speech Communications from Clarion University.