i was recently asked to give an example of my best and worst experience when working with families in business. The answer to that question is all bout the leadership qualities and attributes of the family member who sits in the position of owner, chair or CEO.
If I told you the worse example you would not believe me. Those who stand out have the same common characteristics.
Commentary on the internet is overloaded with leadership content. In my experience working in and with businesses of all size, effective leadership is captured in the attached illustration. You can add to that encourage the heart, model the way and challenge the process.
Why have I had a stone replica of this turtle on my desk for the last 30 years?
It’s all about your appetite for risk & willingness to have a growth mindset.
In order to move forward a turtle must stick its head out.
Victorian business owners have to decide on difficult choices in this lock down and some are about future survival.
Some owners are in a state of anxiety and not in a good mental place and unable to see a way forward. Others see it as a time to look outside their immediate situation and develop a new way forward .
In my own situation working in isolation I go through a variety of emotions on a daily basis. Some days I am all about a state of positive psychology and on others, I am having trouble getting my brain into action and being motivated to get moving.
I know that I am not alone. That’s why I work to a structured routine, talking to others every day, informative zoom meetings only, new learning on You Tube, writing, looking to see how I can add value and walk 10 klms a day.
Be a turtle and stick you head out and look for a way to move on
This month I celebrate what I consider a milestone birthday. The one thing I have learnt from this COVID-19 shutdown is that I will always keep working. For many similar to me who have so much to give and share, the way to thrive post pandemic is to keep learning and sharing knowledge and experience.
The tipping point for me was NFP board member telling me I was too old to be on boards and she did not want older males involved. What is old? Tell that to world famous business guru Peter Drucker who was consulting past his eighties and was still relevant.
That's why my purpose in business is to work with families in business from bright young teenagers to founders who won't retire to achieve harmony between age groups.
Looking forward to a changed business world when we know what the hell that may look like.
Our regional food and fibre segments, which are mostly family owned and managed, are employing many thousands of Australians across the whole agribusiness chain.
We need to ensure the knowledge gap that exists within our major city population of the critical economic driver from farming is understood and appreciated.
Current world political events are going to place a greater emphasis on Australian owned and grown food.
The integrity of our bio security procedures should be further strengthened to ensure we set the world standard for what we produce and eat in our own country
As we come out of uncertainty in understanding how things might change the way business is conducted in the future. It become even more important to communicate with your staff. They are also uncertain about the future and the more you can clarify your business direction the more they can embrace it and support you.
Don't throw the next generation into the deep end without standing on the side to pull them out if needed.
If you cannot give your family members a chance to take on responsibility and let them make mistakes they will end up in an confused state that only leads to internal family stress.
This a very good reason why next generation family members need to get away from the family business and work outside in a couple of other businesses for a while. Sometimes parents are too protective of their children and tend to keep making decisions for them and never let them have command or control of what they do. They are overly protective and we end up with what I call Golden Children.
On the other hand, some parents are unreasonably tough and cause all sorts of stress and conflict for those on the receiving end. This stress is usually felt most within the next generation's marriage. The daughter-in-law or son-in-law is then is a no-win situation when they protest that their partner is being treated unfairly.
I have seen this in a couple of family businesses where an in-law has complained. They are then persecuted and it's not acceptable. In fact, it is bullying of the very worst kind and the emotional effect is long lasting. Regrettably it has lead to suicide.
Have a clear vision of where you want the business to be in the future following the 2020 COVID-19 Crisis.
Can you articulate a vision of what your business will be in 2021?
An effective vision statement clearly explains your core reason for being and enables your family employees, customers and suppliers to get on board and support your business to be successful.This might sound like stating the obvious. However, it always amazes me how many companies I visit who haven’t got this right. There are a number of expressions explaining the lack of a shared and understood vision. The first that comes to mind is that “if you don’t know where you are going, then it doesn’t matter because any road will take you there.” (Lewis Carroll, Alice through The Looking Glass). How can you set goals and objectives if you don’t know what you are aiming for? This might sound like stating the obvious, however it continues to worry me how many companies I visit who haven’t addressed this fundamental issue.
Much is made of successful companies having the right vision, mission and culture combined with giving employees an opportunity to share in the successes.. Experience shows that many companies go through this at great expense only to fail because the culture does not become pervasive and is often sent down the organisation from the top. As a private operator you have a wonderful opportunity to get it right.
In family business and small to medium business it is often the owner who has been away to a conference and comes back all enthusiastic and races around to changes everything overnight and then, within a month, it’s back to the same old way we have always been doing it. The signs and slogans are on the wall and in a new manual. The staff will sit back and wait until it runs out of steam and get back to the way they feel comfortable and work within what gives them the least amount of trouble.
Michael Gerber, in his presentations about his “E” myth theory, talks about trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle without having the picture on the box to show you what you are trying to achieve. It’s the same in business, if you don’t know what the business looks like in the future, you could end up anywhere.
I remember reading something that Joel Barker once wrote which I think is the best explanation. I use this all the time;
Vision without action is merely a dream
Action without vision is a waste of time
Vision with action can change the world
Up until the COVID-19 lockdown If you were reading this then you had probably lost sight of the original vision, passion and drive you had when you started. You are now frustrated because your staff just come to work, go through the motions and don’t want to take any responsibility. There is no thought or care of how the business is affected if they don’t turn up to work or if orders don’t get out on time. Your biggest concern in 2020 is how to survive until the end of the year and how to rebuild and grow your business and maintain profit. You have probably reached the limit with your existing internal resources.
Action without vision is a waste of time
Peter Berry, a highly regarded TEC resource speaker, talks about getting on board the north bound train. He tells of the need to have your staff all going in the same direction because they understand the final destination. Would you get on a bus or train if you didn’t see the sign on the front telling you where you what the final destination was? Ask yourself if your employees know where your business in heading. What will it look like when they get there? How will they know when they have arrived?
The second habit in Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Simon and Schuster, New York 1984) is Begin with the end in mind. If you cannot see it how can you achieve it?
Vision with action can change the world
We should take some lessons from great sporting coaches and sporting achievements from teams and individuals. Those who are able to visualise the outcome and the goal they want have a far greater chance of getting closer to the desired result. The great golfer, Jack Nicklaus was the first to practice the technique of visualising the end result before he hit the ball. He would stand behind the ball and watch himself hit it, see it go through the air, land on the fairway or green, bounce and come to a stop exactly where he wanted it to be. Now the likes of Adam Scott and many successful sportspeople do the same.
How does this relate to you in your business? Do you have a clearly defined vision of what your business will look like in the future? Is it written down? Can it be understood by everyone connected to your business? Can you draw a picture of what your business will look like in the future? Does everyone see and understand the final destination?
Vision without action is merely a dream
How many times have you been to a company and read the signs on the wall espousing the company vision and mission statements? You see all the familiar words such a best service, superior quality, care for people, empowerment and total quality management. Yet, in actual fact it’s nearly impossible to find that being practiced though out the company. I once worked for a large multi national company where one of the directors told the sales force at a conference that it was all a load of rubbish and just a phase the CEO was going through to make an impression in his new role. I am sure you have seen it all before.
Disneyland have a simple vision: To make people happy. Now that’s not difficult for everyone to understand and embrace.
The name of my consulting company’s vision development program is PointNorth. This came about because I am passionate about having a properly defined and meaningful vision in every business that is pervasive through the whole organisation. It also comes from a story I read on Stephen Covey giving a talk to a thousand or so people one day and he asked them to all stand up and close their eyes. He then requested everyone to point to the north. You can imagine what they saw when they opened their eyes, hands going in every direction. Think about the employees, clients and suppliers connected to your business. Would they have a common concept of where your business is heading or would you get a hundred different answers?
I find it interesting how hard it is to get this right. I am convinced that the best strategy is to get out of your environment for a day or two and go on a visioning, strategy and planning retreat. Take as many of your people as possible with you. Use an experienced external facilitator and workshop the concept of what is known as the NOW WHERE HOW. You know where you are now, that’s the easy part.
The technique is to have plenty of plip chart paper and carry out an exercise explaining to the participants that you have given them a Magic Wand. There are no restrictions and you can have any resources you need. Now draw a picture of what the business will look like in one or three year’s time. This will start to build up the WHERE.
You can start on the strategies for how you get from the NOW to the WHERE and you are into working out the HOW. The How is the business plan that we will talk about in another chapter.
This is what we do all the time with our PointNorth consulting tool kit. It has taken me three months in one business to get it right. We could have achieved the same result in two days if we were able to get out of town and concentrate on the task one hundred percent.
A vision statement does not have to be a long descriptive chapter and verse containing many words. For example, at a large medical clinic where we set about establishing a forward strategy to take the clinic through the next decade. Our first task was working on a simple vision statement that embraced what the clinic was striving for and could be understood by all stakeholders. It was interesting when the doctors were each asked to write the statement, their medical background come to the fore and we had some pretty serious words put forward and to their credit they thought long and hard about the content.
The final version was condensed to the following “For your ongoing health and wellbeing”. That was their core purpose and vision for the future. They saw the future of the clinic as more than just seeing sick people, their vision to expand into preventative medicine. The challenge will be to be able to convince the public and Government that this is worthwhile.
The two principals, then added a statement that stated they wanted to be recognised in their community for providing a comprehensive program of excellent family health care though all phases of life. This then forced them to look at what services they needed to add to their business to achieve that vision. Then they began talking about adding other services and letting rooms out to other health professionals such as a dietician, a masseur etc.
Stop and reflect on your business. If you define your vision and business mission what else can you offer to your clients? At this medical centre we then developed the mission statement or what I prefer to call “We will achieve this by” Having set their direction for the medical practice, the following detailed the internal culture they established to make sure that everyone was singing form the same hymn book so that they could achieve their end objective. They then committed to writing the following key issues that were not negotiable;
- Professional and enthusiastic doctors and health professionals
- Team members who are enthusiastic, caring, courteous and respectful
- Providing a non-threatening environment for patients
- Embracing technology
- Continuous improvement of their knowledge base
- Providing a suite of up to date medical expertise covering a wide range of family medical issues
- Measuring their standards at all times
- Being excellent listeners and being available
- By communicating with patients and being aware of the impact of waiting times
- Providing fulfilling and satisfying careers for the staff
- Providing a work environment where everyone is recognised for individual effort
This had a powerful effect on all aspects of the clinic and one year later the results where excellent, and they still have a way to go. The other key driver in this exercise was the ability of the practice manager to follow through and implement the changes in a controlled and non-threatening manner. If the doctors can do it, and they freely admit they knew nothing about running a business, how much easier will it be for you to get it right?
They did experience many of the things you probably think of in your own business. Nobody listens, they will just go back to the old way of doing things, I haven’t got the time to make it happen, no one can do it better than me anyway.
The secret to the success of the doctors was that they were prepared to pay an outside expert to come in for three months and be the catalyst for the change needed to move forward. They had reached a stage in their business where they were frustrated and not prepared to put up with a lack of direction from a business point of view.
Again, how does that compare with your business? It’s important to get this right. You will find that your staff and everyone who deals with you will embrace your business if you go to the trouble to work through the process in a clear and precise manner. Your vision for the future must be realistic and everyone should believe it’s achievable. If you do get it right then it will become pervasive throughout your business and you will be delighted at the long term effect and positive cultural change that takes place.
I recently saw that the vision and mission statement at a cemetery is on a wall in the hut where the employees have their morning tea. When I quizzed the workers no one really knew it was there. The other thing that I couldn’t reconcile was that the statement focused only on care and respect for the dead. Surely, it’s the living relatives that are the ones they should also be focused on. They are ones’ who visit all the time and are the future clients. I would have thought the mission was to make the visits to the cemetery non-threatening and a pleasant environment in which to pray or talk to past relatives. Imagine the difference in the way staff would see the visitors if they understood that. It goes without saying that the deceased are treated with respect. The telling thing was that the gardeners didn’t take any notice or understand what is the true purpose of having the sign there in the first place.
One of the essential characteristics of being an effective business leader or manager is to actually have people who are prepared to follow your dream or core business purpose. How can you expect to have followers if you cannot give them a reason to get on board the same train?
Before you can implement any of the above it will be necessary to make sure that you also have your own personal goals and objectives in place. What’s the point of going to all the trouble for your business if the most important aspect of all is not right first? I encourage you to think about self as the priority as you are the one you have to answer to every morning when you look in the mirror. If you are on track personally and have a clear vision of what you are wanting out of life, then it’s going to be a lot easier to create an environment at work that others will want to involved in. You must be aware that your employees will set their attitude based on how they perceive your mood when they meet you each day.
Key issues for you to consider:
1. Get the flip chart out and the coloured pens and draw a picture of yourself and your business in the future
2. Bring your family or whole team together and seek their ideas and share your vision.
3. Put some key dates to achieving the end result
4. Use an outside facilitator to help you do this
5. Make sure that everyone who joins you on this journey can share in the rewards
6. Create an environment that enables your team to help you achieve your vision
7. Not only reinforce your vision all the time, also celebrate your successes along the way
Bill Winter. April 2020
E: firstname.lastname@example.org www.smeadvisor.com.au
Our seniors in business are a forgotten segment of our business community in the current COVID-19 crisis.
Bill Winter is a renowned family business advisor and facilitator of the hard to have family succession conversations.