Family-owned businesses, it’s OK to ask for help!

Since joining J-Flex – my family’s company – I’ve been on one heck of an emotional and educational journey that has seen me work my way up the ladder, eventually shadowing and succeeding my Dad as MD of the business. The succession came following two years of meticulous planning and has since been described by onlookers as “one of the few examples of seamless succession in a family-owned company”, however it would not have been possible without HELP!

It sounds obvious, but so many SMEs don’t seem to ask for (or know where to find) help! 

It sounds obvious, but so many SMEs (in particular family-owned businesses) don’t seem to ask for (or know where to find) help. J-Flex, on the other hand, has never been afraid to ask, and in our experience the best place to look for it was our existing network of contacts…and if they can’t help, quite often they know of somebody who can!

At the beginning of our succession planning journey – totally new territory for us – it was clear that we would need some sort of guidance to ensure we got smoothly from A to B. So we spoke with various people we thought might be able to help, and one of them came up trumps and introduced us to a chap called Tim! Tim had previously worked for a massive company – we’re talking billions – as MD, he also set up and grew his own successful business and now spends his days “having fun” (his words) as a Coach / Mentor / Advisor / Consultant / Non-Executive Director (call it what you want!). 

During our initial meeting with Tim we were asked about our “Vision” for the future of the company. My family had discussed this numerous times previously and had considered all options, including selling the business. So we we talked Tim through our thoughts and ideas for the future. When we finished, Tim remarked; “That sounds great! Have you thought about writing it down and sharing it with your staff?” In a nutshell…………no! We hadn’t documented it, or told anybody about it for that matter – that would change, eventually. 

Throughout the following weeks and months that we consulted with Tim, we (the family) drafted and rewrote the Vision until we had a powerful statement that we all agreed on. We then produced – under Tim’s guidance – an ambitious 3-year Company Plan / Strategy that would allow us to achieve the Vision, and took the opportunity to document the Values that we believe in and expect our colleagues to act in accordance with. Finally, we sat down with the entire organisation and shared our vision for the future of J-Flex. 

The impact it [the Vision] has had has been incredible. It’s provided clarity and reassurance about the future of the company – my Dad often joked that he would retire at 65 – it’s also allowed us to become highly driven, focused and motivated, and has really helped with the recruitment of identified key positions. 

Tim continues to help J-Flex; providing strategic support to our new Leadership Team and participating in our monthly Leadership meetings. Tim also coaches me on a 1-2-1 basis. 

Whilst the above might not seem like rocket science (mainly because it isn’t), it’s amazing what you can achieve when you ask for help! There’s no shame or weakness in admitting you need it either, you can’t know everything after all. Even the most successful business leaders have asked for help from their own mentors; Richard Branson had Sir Freddie Laker, Mark Zuckerberg had Steve Jobs and Bill Gates had Warren Buffett…

…and as Bill Gates says, “Everyone Needs A Coach”…

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