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10 Ways to Navigate a Family Business

10 Ways to Navigate a Family Business


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For many people in this industry, retail and family go hand-in-hand. While running a family business is rewarding, it is not always easy. Hardware Retailing spoke with Wayne Rivers, co-founder and president of The Family Business Institute to gather 10 tips family business leaders can implement in any retail operation.

1. Communication Is Key
A majority of issues coming from management are communication problems, Rivers says. The only way to get better at communicating is to practice. In some case, this means family business leaders should step away from the urgent, day-to-day operations tasks to focus on the bigger picture.

2. Strategic Management
The best manager is a strategic manager because strategic planning yields so many benefits for family businesses, Rivers says. The use of long-range planning, advanced 21st-century management tools, and modern family governance practices increases the amount of communication, information and knowledge sharing in family businesses, which in turn strengthens and improves the organization and the company culture and can increase business opportunities.

3. People Management
The most successful retailers are those who recognize and acknowledge their people, Rivers says. If you don’t have a system for the care, training and nurturing of your team, you’re not going to attract top talent. Hire excellent employees instead of average, and then recognize and thank them.

4. Dealing With Change
The best leaders see change and challenge as opportunities while simultaneously avoiding a victim mentality, Rivers says. It’s important to not only that recognize change is a fact of business life, but to learn to anticipate it and get ahead of it to be prepared and take advantage of new opportunities before the competition does.

5. Continuous Improvement
Top family business leaders are always looking to improve themselves, their people, their families and their organization, he says. Business leaders don’t fall prey to the idea of “that’s the way we have always done it here,” which represents clinging to the status quo. Visionary family business leaders understand that the status quo holds the organization back. Avoiding necessary and desirable change is the greater enemy to family businesses over the long haul.

6. Skills Development
Successful family-business leaders know that when they graduate high school or college, the everyday lessons aren’t over. These types of leaders immerse themselves in crucial lifelong skills like relationship-building, process mapping, communicating with others on a deep, meaningful level, risk management, creative thinking and managerial accounting, Rivers says. Visionary leaders seek out training and education in these areas since they know learning never stops. They’re hungry to find the knowledge and information to allow them to stay one step ahead of the competition.

7. Growth-Oriented People Define Growth
Growth doesn’t happen by itself, Rivers says. Leaders who are passionate about what they do, investing in and developing their people and making continuous and never-ending improvements create either written or mental designs to grow. It’s not coincidental; they have big-picture plans with clear goals in mind and they develop execution plans focused on growth.

8. The Importance of ‘What If’ Scenarios and Contingency Plans
Successful leaders manage risk in a calculated way, Rivers says. They don’t wait for life to slap them in the face, but look months and years into the future to identify obstacles. Instead of sinking into worry, they plan for the unexpected.

9. Working With Others, Even Family
The unwillingness or inability to work with others—including family—has been and will be a downfall for family businesses. Business owners value their independence, flexibility and the ability to chart their own paths, yet when they start families, they often shape their children in their own images. Rather than dismiss their adult children’s ideas and influence when they join the business, it’s important to get along with others, inside and outside the family. Independence must be put aside for a greater focus on mutual benefit and cooperation.

10. Develop Future Business Leaders
The most successful business leaders enjoy and take pride in developing future leaders, Rivers says. They must remove themselves from the day-to-day in favor of mentoring, next-generation and successor training and being stewards of their family business.

About Renee Changnon

Renee Changnon
Renee Changnon is an assistant editor for Hardware Retailing magazine. She reports on industry news and new products, visits retailers and attends industry events. She graduated from Illinois State University, where she earned a degree in Visual Journalism and was the features editor for the school newspaper, The Daily Vidette. After college, Renee worked for Jimmy John’s, where she implemented marketing and promotions initiatives at franchise locations across the country. Renee is from Champaign, Illinois, and is new to Indianapolis. She enjoys reading, Netflix marathons and exploring her new city with friends and family.