Thursday, December 12th, 2019

How-to: Take Over a Family Business (for Moms)

By ML Broxton on Jan 17 2011 • Filed under How-To

Moms have unique challenges when taking over family business.

You have just been handed the golden scepter. You're at the helm of the family business and you are filled with ideas about how you're going to change things for the better. You suspect you might run into some challenges, but it's nothing you can't handle, right? I mean, you've managed people before. In fact, you've worked at some big companies and have taken over several departments of varying sizes. A family business? Should be a piece of cake!

Taking over a family business as a Mom is so much more complicated than any man in your family can begin to imagine. Sometimes it happens that a son or grandson takes over the family business. In a few businesses, like your family’s, it’s a Mom. It will be tough at times to juggle your responsibilities at home and work, however, the emotional and financial payoff can be fantastic.

Here are six "first steps" to get you going in the right direction:

1. Let the big decisions take care of the little ones.

When you take over your family business, especiallyas a Mom, you may experience power struggles with your male relatives and extreme stress as you do your best to balance work and your family. Before you start work, let your family know that you may be working longer hours and may need to bring work home with you pretty frequently. In the beginning, you will be putting out a lot of fires at work. This can make you feel less patient at home with your spouse and children. You may decide that from 6:00 – 8:00pm is dedicated to family time.Or, you may decide that you will attend every school party and play for your child. Making the big decisions before you start your new adventure will help you make the little decisions during the transition of your first year of running the family business.

2. Find out who's really the boss.

Before your first day on the job, meet with the current owner and talk about his level of involvement in the business. Will he be on site every day or will he want a weekly/monthly update on progress? Lay out some guidelines for who will be making decisions about the business. Key areas to discuss are finances, employee hiring and discipline, and anything that is "off limits" for change.

3. Have a plan.

Daily tasks can overwhelm any business owner and drown out the overall vision. Make sure you're vision is clearly identified in writing so you can easily reference it. Some folks do this in a formal business plan and others simply journal in detail about where they are headed. Whatever your method, just make sure to keep your written plan handy. You will likely need to refer to it, adjust it, and perhaps cling to it if the waves get choppy.

4. Get to know your people and let them get to know you.

You're going to make some mistakes as you embark on this adventure, so let your team know that you're human and you're in it with them. When they succeed, everyone wins. Some new owners like to make an "all employee" speech and others simply integrate more gradually onto their team. Whatever your method, it's a great strategy to spend some time working alongside each one of your key employees. They will feel like you understand their contribution and struggles on the job, and you will have a better appreciation for what they do. Don’t be ashamed to be a loving mother. While you're chatting, ask your employee what they see as the biggest opportunity for the business. I also ask "if you could change one thing about your job/this company, what would it be?" If you can change it for them, and it makes sense for the company, do it. They will never forget it.

TIP: Sometimes Mompreneurs think they can’t manage men unless they’re really tough or mean. Employees, regardless of gender, will ultimately respond to a boss who is fair and helps them do their best. At the end of the day, you don’t have to be anything you’re not. You’re in this for the long haul and it’s best to have employees who work well with each other and with you.

5. Find a business mentor outside your family and friend circle.

When your sister doesn't show up for work, and you learn your nephew is skimming money from the cash drawer, you will need a level-headed person to keep you on course, not just take your side. Find someone you respect who has run a profitable family business for several years and has kept a good relationship with their family and employees.

6. Celebrate success.

Remember that vision you have for your family business? Celebrate the milestones you reach and reward your team with something fun and meaningful. If your employees do something great, say thank you immediately and plan to do something bigger if the situation warrants it.

If times are tight, have a potluck and you provide the meat. Or, maybe you have cake and ice cream. Making the big bucks? Treat your employees and their significant others to dinner at a nice restaurant. A general rule of thumb is to provide smaller, more frequent rewards at first. This allows you to build up some momentum with your folks. Later, when the team is going strong and steady, the annual dinners out on the town are fantastic. Whatever you choose, make sure you choose a reward with your team in mind. After all, they helped your business become the success it is today. Let them know you appreciate their hard work and share what great things are in store for their future.

Running a family business can be one of the most rewarding and challenging tasks you will ever undertake. However, it can be done successfully, and I hope these six steps are helpful to you.


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