Following in the footsteps of an amazing entrepreneur
This was one of the first ever videos I did because I have walked this path myself recently! When your Mum and/or Dad have been the king ding-a-ling for SO long, they’ve built a really successful company, been trail blazers in their industry, have an army of fans working for them and have an unlimited amount of energy and passion, it can be a really daunting task to take over the helm of their family business.
No matter how much belief and confidence you have in yourself and your ability to take the business to the next level, you’ll never have the same relationships with people that they do, you haven’t been there in all the situations they have over the years and you’ve never experienced some of the down-right awful things they have in their time as an entrepreneur building and growing a company. Imposter Syndrome is REAL. And if you let it, it will eat away at you.
Your first thought is the staff. They would lay down their lives for your Dad! He took them on, trained them, built their confidence, cared about their families, gave them special allowances, helped them out in times of hardship… they’ve been right by his side as the company has grown and flourished and are loyal to him to the Nth degree. So how do they feel about you – who they have known since you were in nappies - taking his place? Are you trying to be him? Are you going to come in all guns blazing, changing things left, right and centre so that you can make your mark? Are you one of these entitled next generation who thinks everything should be handed to you on a plate? Do you want to get rid of all the old guard and bring in a bunch of youngsters to modernise the business?
Your second thought is all the customers and suppliers who made deals with your Dad on a handshake, all those years ago. They have faith and belief in your Dad, they take him at his word, and he always delivers. If he’s not around any more, will they want to do business with YOU? They’ve got decades of experience in your industry, there isn’t anything they haven’t seen or done so who are you to rock up and expect them to respect you when you’ve only been in the game for five minutes? Imposter Syndrome is really starting to kick in now!
Finally, there’s your Dad himself. A man who has sacrificed everything and dedicated his life to building a family business so that his children and grandchildren can have a good life full of choice and opportunity. He commands attention, people gravitate towards him and he is a natural born entrepreneur. He makes the hard decisions, the right decisions and the brave decisions. He’s your inspiration and the reason you wanted to run the family business. But how on earth can you ever live up to him? How can you achieve even half of what he has and make him proud? Will he ever be able to fully trust you with his baby, the company he gave up everything to build?
Well, there are a few things you can do to help yourself overcome all of these scenarios, even if it’s just one at a time. But before we go into them, I just want to say one thing to you – you will NEVER be your Dad, or your Mum, or whoever’s footsteps you are following in. You can only ever be the BEST version of YOU. Your Dad thinks you’re good enough, your Dad has the faith in you and he would probably bet his house that you’re capable of doing even more for the future of the family business than he can. Trust me, nobody hands a business down to someone they don’t trust and believe in. You’ve got unique talents and skills to contribute towards the success of your company.
So with that in mind, let’s talk about the first challenge – your employees. This is where it’s vital that you and your Dad communicate effectively with your staff. Nobody likes change, but clear, well-communicated change over a period time is much easier for people to deal with. It gives them an opportunity to understand the ins and outs of what’s really going on, ask questions, voice concerns and feel part of the transformation rather than being left behind.
Why not have an away-day with your team? This period of change from one generation to the next is a great chance to revisit the company’s values, purpose, ambitions and goals. It’s where you can talk about your ideas for the future and how everyone will have a role to play. Understand that there’s a treasure trove of knowledge, experience and wisdom amongst your employees and let them know you value that. Communication is the most crucial part of any successful business. Keep it simple and inclusive – whether it’s getting everyone together in person, company newsletters, social media, one-to-ones….just make sure everyone feels part of the conversation.
Number TWO – take the time to meet with your customers. You’re the new kid on the block so it’s imperative you show your customers that you care, that you want to understand their challenges and that nothing will slip just because you’ve taken over the reins from your Dad. Take your best customers out for lunch or a coffee so they can get to know you and so you can really get under the skin of why they do business with you, what more you could offer them and how else you can help them. At the end of the day, if your customers are successful then you will be successful. Not only is this a brilliant way of alleviating any doubts people had about you as the next leader, it will almost definitely result in you doing more business with people!
Finally, number THREE – find YOUR zone of genius. Instead of feeling pressured to live up to your Dad’s amazing entrepreneurial talents, find the one thing that you absolutely excel at. Then focus on it. Because at the end of the day, that’s why you’re here. That’s why your Dad had complete confidence in handing the reins of the company over to you and that’s why you deserve to be here, as the leader for the future. My zone of genius is in creating great content to help our members, yours might be in marketing your business or developing and nurturing exceptional talent. Whatever it is, focus your energy on doing more of it and less of the ten dollar tasks – the things that take up loads of your time but could easily be done by other people.
So yes, following in the footsteps of an incredible entrepreneur can be tough but now it’s time to make your own imprint on the business.
Lets recap on the three important steps you can take -
ONE – communicate effectively with your staff. Nobody likes change so instead of keeping them in the dark, make them part of the conversation.
TWO – take the time to meet with your customers. Help them overcome their biggest pain points and you’ll soon earn their respect.
THREE – find your zone of genius. Focus on the thing that makes you an exceptional leader and the rest will come.
So as you go away to try some of these things, I’ll leave you with one final thought – the more successful your family business, the bigger your family’s impact.
Author: Amalia Brightley-Gillott, MD & 2nd Generation
Family Business Place