So you’ve ‘officially’ taken over the running of the family business from your Dad. You threw him a retirement party, all your staff, customers and suppliers know that you’re the boss now. You’ve got the new title of Managing Director or CEO. Your Dad says he wants to do other things. He’s put the best years of his life into building the business. Your Mum wants her husband back so they can go travelling, spend more time with family and grandchildren. Your Dad says he trusts you (after all, you’ve been working with him for 10 years) and that he knows the business is in safe hands. He’s stepping back.
So why then, does he keep ‘popping’ in, trying to get involved?
You’ve got your own ideas and plans. You’re going to make changes to make the company more efficient, drive more growth, expand and diversify, embrace better technology.
But he Just. Wont. Let. Go.
Always questioning your decisions, chipping away at your confidence in yourself. Speaking to the staff and saying things like ‘well we never used to do it that way but Jack seems to think it’s a good idea’.
Now, I know this must feel incredibly frustrating. Like he doesn’t actually trust you after all. It probably feels like he doesn’t agree with any of your ideas.
But you have to remember this is about HIM, not you.
Your Dad would have sacrificed a LOT to build this business. No doubt in the early days he probably re-mortgaged his house, borrowed money off friends and family, worked every hour God sent, missed out on you growing up, missed all your big matches and school plays. But I can guarantee this wasn’t driven by greed. It was driven by wanting to provide a better life for his family. Your Dad is clearly a born entrepreneur and an exceptionally hard worker.
You can’t just switch those things off at a retirement party.
In his 20, 30, 40 years running the business he would have seen EVERYTHING and made every mistake under the sun.
So when it seems like your Dad is meddling he’s actually trying to stop you making the same mistakes he did. He’s trying to save you weeks and months of figuring it out for yourself when he could just tell you the answer.
Why not set him a project to get everything he knows about running a business down on paper? A handbook for success if you like! All the ins and outs of finances, managing staff, working with suppliers, building customer relationships…. absolutely everything he knows. He will feel humbled that you respect his opinion and it will help him put closure to his tenure at the helm of the company.
He’s also completely lost his sense of purpose. For so long the business has been the reason he got out of bed in the morning. To make another sale, pay people’s salaries, provide another job, fix another problem, launch another idea.
So can you imagine how it feels to not have that purpose any more? The adrenalin that comes with running a company, all the highs and lows – how do you replace that? What does your Dad do the day after his retirement? What does he get out of bed for?
So rather than getting annoyed that he’s still ‘meddling’ in the business, why not help him to find a new purpose?
Maybe it’s becoming a mentor for young entrepreneurs, writing a book, donating his wisdom and experience to local charities as a trustee, being an ambassador for your industry, getting involved in local community projects or even an official role as ambassador for your company?
Your Dad’s experience is utterly invaluable. Don’t just throw all that out because you want to make your mark. Tap into it but perhaps use a more ‘formal’ mechanism like a monthly mentor meeting rather than him just popping in every now and then.
Finally, perhaps it’s time to just sit down and be honest with him. I’ve no doubt that he feels he’s just being useful. Not wanting you to fail. He would probably be mortified that you think he’s being a nuisance. Sit him down and have a frank conversation. Tell him how you feel and that you need room to make your own mistakes. After all, you’ve been working in the company for some time now, it’s not like you’re the new kid on the block. But working in, and being at the helm of a business are two very different things. So make sure you don’t cut your nose off to spite your face. Your dad is a treasure trove of wisdom and when things get tough – and they will – he will be the only person who truly understands what you’re going through and will be able to offer you the support you need.
So, when it feels like your Dad is meddling when you’re trying to run the family business, let’s recap on the 3 simple things you can do to change it.
ONE – Set him a new project. Encourage him to write a handbook to success. Something you can refer to and a chance for him to get all of his experience down on paper.
TWO – Help him to find a new purpose. Whether it’s still being involved with business as an ambassador or a mentor, writing a book or giving back to his community and charitable causes.
THREE – Have an honest conversation. Tell your Dad how you’re feeling and he’ll let you find your own way.
So if you find yourself in this position, having recently taken over the family business but battling with a Dad who simply can’t let go then I hope these three simple ideas will bring you some success.
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