Last week I was honoured to be a part of the first ever Family Business Conference in the Midlands. The event – held at International Bomber Command Centre in Lincoln – brought together a wide and diverse range of companies, providing a fantastic forum for family business leaders and owners to learn from and network with like-minded individuals and businesses.
After spending the day listening to a number of fascinating discussions (and indeed, taking part in one), I think we can safely say that a) no business is perfect and b) we’ve all got the same sort of challenges.
But what exactly are those challenges?
One or two of those discussions explored the topic of growth – some businesses are growing too quickly and don’t have the structure or resources to support it, whilst others want to grow but they too don’t have the structure or resources to support it.
Talking of structure and resources…recruitment, it would seem, is a major headache for organisations. I was part of the panel who were asked; how do you find the right people for your business? The answer was simple and unanimous; you recruit against your values and a candidates competency.
“People are your greatest asset”. Wrong!
“The right people are your greatest asset”.
Owner/founder dependency crept into conversation too. To coin a phrase from the brilliant Traction (by Gino Wickman), “letting go of the vine” is a huge obstacle for businesses where the owner/founder is unable to relinquish control as it grows. Whilst some find it easy to let go, others find it difficult due to an (emotional) attachment or an unwillingness to change – empowering your people and ensuring that knowledge is retained/transferred can help avoid this.
Succession planning is a big stay awake issue for business leaders and owners (and it’s not exclusive to the family business sector either). The best advice I’ve ever taken away on this issue is; “it’s never too early to start planning your succession”.
Admittedly these aren’t the only challenges that businesses face, that list is longer than the four areas highlighted above. They were, however, the key themes and topics that emerged during the day, and there’s a common denominator…PEOPLE!
So whilst we all have the same sort of challenges, some may argue that it’s simplistic to suggest that they all relate back to people. Others, however, will argue that it’s not far from the truth. But as I drove home feeling inspired and enlightened, my biggest take away from the day was reassurance.
Why? At a recent awards event, the Chief Executive of a nationwide organisation got up to make an acceptance speech, and was incredibly open and honest in their assessment of leadership and finished with these words; “Whilst it can be an incredibly rewarding role, it can also be lonely at the top, and sometimes you need a little bit of reassurance”. The Family Business Conference did just that; reassurance that no business is perfect (no matter how perfect they seem on the outside) and reassurance that we’ve all got the same sort of challenges.
Same again next year?