Archive for June, 2012

Create camaraderie in your family business

Don’t under estimate the power of friendship and fellowship in the family business. When I asked a family group what they wanted, Jeff, one of the brothers, said, “Camaraderie.” It turned out to be an important idea. At the time the sibling group was not really enjoying each other’s company. They were stuck in a strained relationship haggling over roles and responsibilities in the family business.

After Jeff’s suggestion the group committed to a series of camping trips and adventures together. It’s amazing how all of the tension can melt away around a nice campfire or ATV ride. After each trip the group began to laugh a bit more, relate to each as brothers and friends, and eventually that energy found its way into our business meetings at work. They began to collaborate and work together to solve their common business problems.

Now creating camaraderie is a ongoing practice. They each take responsibility for designing and hosting a quarterly adventure. Like everything, it takes a strong intention and commitment to keep up the practice.

Make Your Practice Plan

By now you understand theat practice is the key to high levels of results.  What is your practice plan?  Let me make a few suggestions of typical business structures that could be good practice plans for you.

  • Weekly staff meeting
  • Weekly one-on-one meeting with direct report(s)
  • Monthly leadership team or all staff meeting
  • Annual performance review
  • Quarterly performance review
  • After-action review on major projects
  • Quarterly or semi-annual leadership offsite retreat (practice, NOT boondoggle!)

Everyone of those meetings and structures is an opportunity to develop and implement deliberate practices for yourself and your organization.

Identify the Deliberate Practices for Your Team

Now that we know about deliberate practice, the question becomes what should I be practicing in the deliberate practice sort of way?  Only you and your team know what would be a stretch past your current capacity.  Think about that and decide.

Let’s take a page out of  Bill Shover’s coaching book and consider focusing on fundamentals.  Having worked with some of the most respected companies in America, I still see the need for building skill in the fundamentals.  To me the fundamentals in business are:

  • Interpersonal communication
  • Collaboration and being open-minded
  • Conflict resolution
  • Time management
  • Task management
  • Commitments management
  • E-mail management
  • Self-management
  • Emotional intelligence

This list gives you a comprehensive set of skills to work on; when you finish you can start right back at the top again.

Bill Shover’s Routine

Bill Shover, my Little League baseball coach, had a practice plan that was regimented and the same every time.  As I look back now, I can see it was deliberate practice.  We warmed up, threw balls back and forth, played “situation” (a mock game of baseball) which helped us be more prepared, had batting practice and then we ran.

That routine was the basis for learning the fundamentals and becoming very good at what we did.  Dean Smith, the North Carolina basketball coach, and John Wooden, the UCLA basketball coach were both legendary for their commitment to practice.

Never Stop Practicing

In his book, Mastery, George Leonard shares one of my all time favorite quotes.  Leonard says the Buddhist masters had a saying, “Before enlightenment you chop wood and carry water.”  The beauty of this message is that if you are to achieve and maintain greatness, it will require a lifelong commitment to practice.

In his book, Leonard teaches us to take joy in the very art of practicing.  In the business world I believe there is a common belief that as a twenty year veteran you’ve got it all figured out and you’ve arrived.  I think when you look at Vladimir Horowitz, you should think about what Leonard is teaching in his book, you should actually see practice as the destination.

Equal pay in a family business?

Nothing creates heartburn and heartache quicker than realizing you’re working 50 percent harder and producing more results, yet getting paid the same as the family member next to you!  One of the common problems I see in family businesses is equal pay or unfair pay.  I get it.  It’s easy to see why moms and dads fall back on the safe route of paying their children equally in the family business.  It’s a short-term fix but it will cause long-term problems.  Great family businesses design compensation systems that reward performance and results. Giving equal compensation to people who have different levels of responsibilities, producing different levels of results will build serious tension, dissatisfaction and ultimately cause long-term strife.

Here’s a short video that highlights a simple five-step process to getting away from the equal pay dilemma.  I realize getting away from this equal pay problem seems insurmountable, but trust me it can be done and it needs to be done for the long-term health of your family business!

Should I Join the Family Business?

The decision of whether or not to join your family business could be one of the biggest decisions of your life!

The problem is, so often, people either get caught up in the emotions of it all, or they don’t take enough time to thoroughly think about all of the possibilities and ramifications of this kind of decision. 

I’ve put together a short set of questions you should ask yourself and ask your family before you take the plunge into your family business.  What happens so often is that you join the family business either in haste or without taking the long term view, and the next thing you know you look up and you have serious reservations, heartburn, or worse yet you feel like you squandered away so much of your life.  Take a few minutes and watch this video and send it on to anyone you know who’s contemplating entering the family business.