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Maturing your family business

Author:
Nette France
Product Strategist
Holocentric

LinkedIn Profile

When I turned 16 my dad started a business. Over the past decade, we’ve grown it from a big idea and an empty warehouse to a nationally recognised retail centre. However, like all family businesses and start-ups, we’ve experienced our fair share of growing pains.

When recounting these early years, my dad likes to quote the famous Kenny Rodgers song ‘If I Knew Then What I Know Now’, a sentiment that I’ve come to realise resonates with many business owners.

No matter where you are in your journey; whether you founded a start-up, are second-generation family business leaders, or just happen to work in a company built from the ground up, this blog is for you. Here are 3 tips for maturing your family business:

1. Don't let yourself become the single point of failure

Nobody knows the feeling of ‘wearing multiple hats’ better than a family business owner. While you might have never studied accounting, you now need to manage invoices and maintain a balance sheet. Not only are you responsible for hiring new staff, you also need to train them and pay them. You’re buying stock, opening credit lines, building an online presence, and marketing to customers all at once. If this sounds familiar, you’ll probably also agree that sometimes, it feels harder to make a change than to keep going as you are. The tip here is, invest in growing your team so that you can grow your business. You’ll have more time, more brain power, and if done right, more turnover!  


2. Document how your business operates

This is a follow-on from point one, and a mighty important one. Remember to share the load. Delegating tasks means giving up control, which also means trusting other people in the business to take responsibility for important operations. The tip here is, find a way to document what you do, train your staff and team members, then let them run with it. The more operational tasks you can delegate, the more time you can spend on the things you can’t delegate!

3. Innovate

Let’s be real, when you’re time poor and have your hands full ‘putting out fires’, the last thing on your mind is innovation. The truth is, change within a business takes time. The tip here is, spending the time is worth it. And I don’t mean halting all operations to spend a week running your team through design-thinking exercises (although if that’s what you want to do, power to you!). I mean allocating time within the month to reflect, revise, and execute. So, what does this mean? 

Reflect

Pick something in the business that has been causing you grief. Maybe it’s payroll that takes you a full day to do. Or maybe it’s something your staff are struggling with – like counting inventory, or updating your online store. Allocate some time to ask and answer the following questions: 

  • What is the current process?  
  • What am I trying to achieve with this process?  
  • What are the downsides to executing this process?  
Revise
Yep, you guessed it. The next step is revising how you do something and coming up with an alternate option. It might be an entire process overhaul, where you pull someone else in to execute. It might be a new piece of technology, or maybe a small change to one of many steps. Whatever it is, identify the change and prepare to test it out.  

Execute

Please pay special attention to one word in the last sentence. Test. It may be ideal to test out the new process, to see if it really does solve your pain. Either way, you can’t finish your innovation at revise. You’ve come this far, so back yourself and put it into action. Making small changes is one way to improve in the long term.  

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