Family Businesses: Looking to the Future While Honouring the Past
Your family business is a testament to the enduring spirit of entrepreneurship and the legacy of generations past. A family business represents a unique blend of blood ties, shared values, and a commitment to building something that can withstand the test of time. As the world evolves, so do these businesses, adapting to changing markets, embracing innovation, and finding ways to stay relevant while preserving their core values. Let’s delve into three important things when it comes to passing the legacy on to the next generation.
Passing on the Legacy
The current primary family steward often bears the brunt of responsibility for carrying forward the family business. Part of this responsibility is to effectively pass on the history, values, and larger vision of the family enterprise. This raises the question of what aspects should be carried on to ensure the continued success of the company to date.
In our experience, there are four common aspects that families are passing on to the rising generation, laying a stronger foundation for the future.
- Core Values: Passing on the core values that founded your family enterprise ensures that future businesses remain true to their ethical principles, earning the trust and respect of customers and employees alike. We do, however, recommend that you involve the rising generation to ensure that the company’s values remain true.
- Industry Knowledge: The expertise and insights accumulated over generations are invaluable. By imparting this knowledge to the rising generation, you empower them to make more informed decisions so they can effectively navigate through any challenges that arise.
- Strong Work Ethic: Generational family businesses are successful because of a dedication to hard work coupled with an entrepreneurial spirit. Instilling these attributes in future generations will foster the same drive and determination that brought the business to prominence in the first place.
- Customer-Centric Approach: You know that to succeed in business, you need to clearly understand and then fulfill the needs of customers. By emphasizing this customer-centric approach, you aren’t just nurturing and mentoring great successors; you’re growing a client base that, so long as you remain relevant and competitive, will remain loyal to your business.
Letting Go of the Past
As you honour the legacy of the family business, you must also recognize the importance of adapting to a changing world. While tradition holds significant value, clinging rigidly to outdated practices can hinder growth and progress. Therefore, it is essential to identify aspects that you should let go of. There are three primary areas many families come up against when it comes to letting go of the past.
- Outdated Technology: Embracing modern technology is crucial to staying competitive and efficient in today’s fast-paced business landscape. Letting go of outdated systems and processes allows the business to streamline operations and adapt to evolving customer demands. Hold tightly to your values and vision, but do not be afraid to embrace technology that will help your business level up.
- Resistance to Change: Clinging to the past can lead to resistance to new ideas and innovations. Openness to change and a willingness to evolve are essential traits that will shape the future success of the family business. Look to the rising generation for ideas on what to bring in and how to evolve while maintaining your positive reputation.
Nepotism: While it’s natural to want to involve family members in the business, merit should always take precedence. Letting go of nepotism ensures that the best individuals are chosen for key roles, fostering a dynamic and skilled workforce. This is why we encourage our family office clients to allow the upcoming generation to explore their own aspirations and capabilities—to determine if an active role in the family business is what drives and motivates them.
Bringing in the Future
By now, you know that just as the world is ever-evolving, so must your family business. Embracing new ideas and strategies is crucial to staying ahead of the curve. Over and above simply having a succession plan, The following ideas help build a plan that’s also successful, paving the way for a prosperous future:
- Innovation: Encouraging a culture of innovation sparks creativity and allows the family business to discover new avenues for growth and development. This doesn’t mean that you have to “throw away” everything. It simply means looking at all that is currently working and where you can improve on it.
- Diverse Perspectives: There are multiple ideas that you can take. One approach that we’ve seen clients take is encouraging their rising generation to gain experience outside of the family business. This allows them to learn from other businesses, teams, and workplace cultures and discover who they are beyond their family name. When they come back to work in the family business, their external experience gives them a unique and diverse perspective.
- Sustainability: There is a shift in many customer bases as more people seek ethical and environmentally conscious brands. By embracing sustainable practices, you are not only benefiting the environment; you are also evolving your business processes, decisions, and culture to speak to and meet the needs of your modern consumers.
In conclusion, the foundation of a family business is rich with wisdom and experiences that shape its identity. To feel confident as the steward of this legacy, pass on the values, knowledge, and work ethic that have made it strong to the next generation. Simultaneously, let go of outdated practices and embrace change and innovation to remain relevant in an ever-changing world. Encourage new ideas and perspectives from the rising generation and your non-family-related employees so you can lay the groundwork for a future that honours your legacy’s past while embracing the possibilities of tomorrow. As your rising generation continues to build your business, they can remain committed to steering the family business towards greater heights and accomplishments.