Family Business, Non-Family Business, Urban Myths.

After 20 years of working with Senior Executives across the world it’s interesting to see the mistakes when appointing Senior Executives. There can be many reasons why, but one reason is not understanding the differences of working in a Family Business and a Non-Family Business. I’ve recently met several Senior Executives who are unhappy with their employment because of this lack of knowledge and understanding and I’m meeting Business owners who didn’t realise there was a difference. These Business Owners feel that money and title is enough and stick to the Mantra of “Surely experienced ‘C’ level Executives can work in any company?”

Due to the change of economy, I have become more involved with assisting Family Businesses rather than just the corporates in finding ‘C’ level people. To do this successfully I believe that everyone in the process of hiring Senior Executives must understand the differences that separate the two entities. Having worked for an English and Indian Family Business in a past life this has helped me at first hand to see the ups and downs of these Businesses; this with a theoretical base has helped with running my own companies or advising others with theirs.

One recent company I have been involved with was run and founded by a successful New Zealand Entrepreneur. He does not have anybody in his immediate family to hand the reins over to. He has tried (outside the family) executives to fill his ‘C’ level roles and has had three people in three years! What is the problem? Was this a real Family Business? Was the Problem his, or the Executives?

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We discussed the reasons for the failures but in terms of assisting the owner I got him to firstly look at where his people came from. All three had been ‘C’ level people in corporates and had done an excellent job in their corporate environment. They all returned to corporate life and continued to do well in their new roles. Why did they fail then in this successful company?

What I needed the owner to do was to identify a “Family Business”. I don’t normally use dictionary definitions but feel that in this instance Wikipedia gives a satisfactory explanation of a Family Business;

“A commercial organization in which decision-making is influenced by multiple generations of a family-related by blood or marriage-who are closely identified with the firm through leadership or ownership. Owner-manager entrepreneurial firms are not considered to be family businesses because they lack the multigenerational dimension and family influence that create the unique dynamics and relationships of family businesses” Wikipedia 2014.

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