Family Business Transitions
October 27, 2021 | By simPRO
The story often goes like this: the older generation poured their blood, sweat, and tears into building their own contracting company.
Running a family business takes hard work, passion, and perseverance. And working alongside your own family also brings a whole slew of unique challenges, especially when it’s time for a younger family member to take over.
The story often goes like this: the older generation poured their blood, sweat, and tears into building their own contracting company, sometimes from nothing at all, and now they’re ready to retire or step away from the daily hustle, so they look to the people they trust the most, their family, and a younger member of the family agrees to step into those shoes and lead operations.
As a digital native (someone who has never known a world without the Internet), the new-generation owner looks to technology to help grow the business, streamline operations and eliminate manual processes that waste time and resources.
The outgoing owner is often skeptical of this new technology. He’s worried about losing touch with the very business principles (and loyal customers) that made his businesses successful in the first place.
A family business transition doesn’t have to be a constant battle of who knows best. With good communication, cooperation and patience, a family business can grow by implementing new technology while still honouring the business’s foundation.
Navigating New Tech
Following are some suggestions on how to navigate the processes of implementing new tech and creating a smooth family business transition.
- Find out how involved your family member wants to be in new changes
Set clear role expectations during the transition. Understand and document exactly how involved the outgoing leader wants to be in running the business and implementing new technology. This will eliminate tension, which otherwise makes it difficult to implement changes, and it also builds trust, demonstrating that the incoming boss values their input and expertise from many years of experience.
- Show the new technology’s effect on the business – not its features
This business was built without the help of the many technological resources we take for granted today. As a result, a non-technical business founder won’t show much interest in the flashy features of new technology. Instead, they want to know how it will actually help the business both day-to-day and long term. Find a way to show them the “why” behind the new technology’s features versus the “what.”
If you’re unsure where to start, reach out to a representatives for the new technology you’d like to implement. They can offer advice for how to position new technology in a results-oriented way.
- Get buy-in from the rest of the team
Getting buy-in from the outgoing leader is just the first step in a business transition plan. It’s also essential to make sure the rest of the team is on board. Employees might be skeptical and see new technology as a threat to their job.
Compound this with adjusting to the boss’s kin taking over, and there are plenty of reasons why established employees might complain to the former leader. If the former boss finds the team’s loyal members aren’t happy with the new changes, there’s a risk he could step in and try to override any changes.
How do you avoid this chain of events? Show each team member how the technology will make their jobs easier, not take their jobs away. Once your team understands how these changes specifically help them in their role, they will be more likely to support bringing new applications on board.
- Get references from similar business owners
Sometimes the former boss needs to hear how new technology helped someone else running a family business in the same industry.
This gives them a chance to hear honest feedback on the technology from someone they can relate to and who may be more impartial than a relative or a sales representative.
Ask some of your connections also running a family business or your family member’s trusted contacts for references of technology they use.
Likewise, ask for references and customer case studies from the contact or sales representative for the technology you’re thinking about implementing.
- Make time to learn how to use new technology
Okay, so now everyone’s on board, it’s time to implement the new platform.
Fight the impulse to rush. Remember that if you try to push things too quickly or pressure others into using the new technology, you risk them becoming frustrated and shutting the whole thing down while also damaging your credibility as the new leader.
Be patient as each team member learns how to work with the new programs. Consider phased implementation, where the team learns about new processes one step at a time versus all at once, which can be overwhelming.
Respect the Legacy
Finally, remember the heartbeat of your business is your people, especially the person who built it. Show them you honour and appreciate all of their hard work by giving them time to adjust to the family business generational transition and new technology.
You’ll be on your way to business growth in no time, and most importantly, you and your family member can continue to build the business as one unified team. <>