Connected through strong emotional ties, family-business members can develop a level of trust and mutual understanding that far surpasses the quality of relationships in other business types. Family members know the details of their business, often having built it from scratch so that its operations are ingrained in the family’s daily habits. While the transfer of knowledge from generation to generation has virtually disappeared from other organisations, it still flows naturally in family dominated businesses. A disruption amongst the family, along with the lost business opportunities it causes, is an important reason for a coaching intervention.
Having a strong background in family business, I am not puzzled or surprised by the dilemmas of emotion that family members feel, nor do I avoid confronting their problems directly.
Outside influences on the family may also need to be addressed, as they may pose obstacles to the functioning and development of the business itself, e.g. independent directors, non-family employees and managers.
Issues that arise include arguments between siblings as to how the business should run, between the older generation and the ‘kids’, families unsure of how to exit or sell a family business or how it should be divided, how to formulate a succession strategy for the future so that the business is ready for the next generation – the complexities and issues are endless. My job as a coach is to motivate and guide the family to resolve their issues. I help them examine the array of choices they face, allowing for an intelligent selection of options. I also encourage the family to appreciate the strengths of its members and their contributions to the business.
My role is to help and remind family members facing dilemmas (or opportunities) to:
SME Owners &
Estimates suggest there is one actively trading business for every 10 people in Australia. Of all the new business started four years ago, a staggering 51.5% are no longer operating. Close to 40% of the two million businesses operating in Australia four years ago no longer exist (Navacue, 2014)
For business leaders, long hours, stress and financial pressures do have an impact on their family and can take a toll on the relationship. They need to communicate clearly and anticipate possible problems before they happen. As a coach I believe that you need to put the same amount of care and effort into your family that you are put into your business.
Business leaders want flexible working hours and more time with their family. They want to ‘call the shots’, set the rules and create their own environment. They want to create a business from scratch and watch it grow. They want to build a team, make more money and be financially independent. They want to have new challenges every day and be able to delegate boring tasks. I understand this and help reconnect them with the reasons they went into business. After all, why should they not have all these benefits? Successful leaders have them.
Many believe they have traits or characteristics that cannot be changed; this is wrong. New traits can be learnt and old ones can be changed or modified. I know, with certainty, that because business owners and entrepreneurs want to be successful in their own enterprise and do so as much as possible on their own terms, change is often required. As your coach I want you to have a successful and profitable business that can function without you – otherwise you simply have a job. A job is not the outcome you wanted when you decided to go into business for yourself.
I have identified the key traits that successful entrepreneurs and SME owners tend to share:
One characteristic of successful leaders is high levels of self-confidence. However, the research says, the higher the self-confidence, the less likely these leaders are open to advice and feedback. Also, leaders do not always get the useful feedback from their organisations they need. They are often under stress, which produces anxiety, fear and physical illness, which they are hesitant to divulge over concern judgements may be made about their capacities.
A one-on-one personal coaching interaction with an objective third party can provide a focus other forms of organisational support cannot.
Eric Schmidt, chairman and chief executive of Google, said his best advice to business leaders is to have a coach. “Once I realized I could trust him [the coach] and that he could help me with perspective, I decided this was a great idea…”. While he admits the cost of a coach may not be cheap, he adds “compared to the decisions CEOs make, money is not the issue.”
“If, through coaching, you have a new perspective, if you feel better with your team, the board and the marketplace, then you have received real value,” Schmidt says.
Organisations who understand the value of their executives’ contribution need to be willing to invest money into their growth and development.
As a coach, I can help business leaders improve performance, reduce or eliminate their blind spots and be open to constructive feedback, not only reducing the likelihood of failure and premature burnout, but also providing an atmosphere in which business leaders can express fears, failures, visions and dreams.