manage change in family businessFamily owned and operated businesses are among the most successful in the country. They are the mainstay of the New Zealand economy.  

Inbuilt strengths of the family business often include commitment and culture. So too is pride in the business. Packaged all together they can produce a major competitive advantage. This can mean higher profit margins, higher returns, faster growth and greater resilience.

The business environment is forever changing. This presents both challenges and opportunities for the owners of family businesses. There are many strengths which stem from a strong family culture and values. Not the least of these is their agility.

Yet change can be tricky in family businesses. The following points might help:

  1. “We’ve always done it that way” doesn’t stand anymore. If commercial reality requires change, then change.
  2. The objectives of different individuals may vary over time. Respect it and voice it.
  3. Look outside the business more often. The services of an external advisor might provide a more unbiased view. This can be important for planning and decision-making.
  4. Be clear on which issues are family-related and which are business-related. Make sure you’ve got the right structure to deal with these.
  5. Change may impact on people in the business and in the family in different ways. Appreciate it and acknowledge it.

Don’t assume that because it’s family there is free and open communication. Often it’s the absolute opposite. Family dynamics, hidden agendas and sensitive issues can complicate matters. So much so that often the unspoken understanding is “let sleeping dogs lie”. 

Encouraging and improving the communication within a family business doesn’t happen overnight. It requires the right situation for family members to express their views. Everyone must have a voice and be heard. Agreement usually goes a long way further than demand.


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