My Yearend Letter to Family Business Owners

HAMBURG, GERMANY. After 82 domestic and 51 overseas flights, I am officially signing off and temporarily setting aside Family Business Governance for a much deserved rest and recreation!

Welcome to the holiday season my dear readers- that whirlwind of gift-giving, marketing blitzes, parties galore that begins right after Halloween and continues to gain momentum through the end of the year.  While this season is meant to bring feelings of love and cheer, it’s also the harbinger of holiday stress for many.

The faltering economy has made the task of balancing family and business more difficult than ever. Family members work longer hours and are aiming for a final push in the last month of the year to increase sales.

I can only imagine the past 4 weeks was probably horrendous, with business owners spending hours cracking their heads on how to meet  production demands especially when their employees start filing their Christmas leaves and claiming 13th month pay and annual bonuses.

Being competitive requires intense focus too especially when year on year sales have registered a paltry increase.  People can begin to lose the balance that is essential for success, both as a family and in business. Your first line of defense from stress is to think about what it is about the season that has felt so stressful in the past. Ill name a few here with excerpts coming from an articled, The Business of Family Business, penned by Lee Mccaffrey:

Are you happy? There’s no use being in a situation where you’re not happy. It breeds resentment and anger, and nothing good can come from that. If you’re not happy, it’s a good time now to sit down with everyone to figure out why, and then take steps to fix it.

Address issues as they come up. Let’s say something small happened in March if you’re still holding onto it by the time November rolls around it’ll likely be starting to take on a life of its own. Issues and problems need to be addressed, worked on together and squared away, as they arise.

Doing Too Much All at the Same Time.   The problem with the holiday season is that we often experience too much of a good thing. While stress itself is necessary for our survival and zest for life, too much stress has a negative impact on our health, both mental and physical. Too many activities, even if they are fun activities can leave us feeling exhausted, rather than fulfilled.

There is no balance between Work and Family. For family members working together, balance is important because the business is part of the family and the family is part of the business. The ramifications of losing balance can have long-lasting and unpleasant effects.

Families should take advantage of the holiday season to re-energize or mend broken relationships and enhance the value of their time together, so that getting through these tough times is much easier.

a. Set communication ground rules. Family discussions during family time (holiday or not) must not include any talk about the business. Usually, the founder or the business leader is prone to violate this rule. The best way is to create a fun program that rewards those people who refrain from “talking shop” during family time and provides a friendly penalty program for those who do. For those who have set up a family council right after signing the family agreement, this activity is one of them.

b. Share one quantifiable goal with each family member. Ask each family member to identify one goal that the rest of the family can help that person achieve in the coming year.

Tough times do not have to upset the balance between family and business. To quote Richard Eu, the great grandson of the Founder of the Eu Yan Sang Group, Asia’s largest TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) Retailer:

“Good governance in a family business starts by putting the company and the family first – each in its own time. “

So in the spirit of the holiday season, I encourage family members to set aside business and enjoy family time!

From my family to yours, I sincerely wish you had a great Christmas and definitely a prosperous New Year in 2018!

(esoriano@wongadvisory.com)

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