At Gwynt, we believe that enterprising family businesses are quickly becoming the driving force of the Dutch economy. We like to call them the New Influencers. The capacity to take on that influential role is within each family business. However, it may be necessary to first learn other ways of seeing and doing things so that the business can adapt to a rapidly changing world.
New skills and abilities must be developed for a family business to become and remain a New Influencer. Having researched and worked with many successful family businesses over the years, we’ve identified five essential capacities that require different perspectives and actions. We are convinced that enterprising and inquiring family businesses can use their passion, ambition and talented people to develop these five capacities in order to professionalise their business and secure its continuity.
Introduction to the New Capacities of Family Businesses
Turning Values into Goals
Entrepreneurship that is based on family values gives strength and direction to family businesses. The challenge is to turn the values of the family into the values of the company so that a meaningful foundation can be laid. Once these values have been translated into a tangible strategy and concrete goals for all levels and each employee, the direction and focus of the business is clear to everyone. Only then can everyone contribute actively to the business plan.
Management has a vital role in all of this. They must create an environment in which employees are constantly aware of the values and business goals so that they can actively contribute to achieving them. This sometimes requires difficult choices to be made. On occasion, saying ‘no’ at the right time helps the business get closer to achieving its goal.
Seeing and acting differently: defining values and goals generates focused energy.
Perhaps one of the most difficult new capacities for the owners of family businesses is learning to transfer ownership. Letting go of day-to-day control and management and transferring powers to employees within an agreed framework can be challenging for family owners. The owner’s psychological ownership is a strength, but it can be a threat at the same time. Employees can find the transition just as challenging because they are expected to take ownership and develop an entrepreneurial spirit.
This changeover of ownership demands trust on both sides. New leadership styles, competences and roles have to be learned by everyone. But developing this capacity gives the business the scope to install maximum passion and talent so that the business and individual careers thrive.
Seeing and acting differently: letting go spreads entrepreneurship throughout the business.
Fostering Collective Innovation
To be successful in an increasingly rapidly changing world, continuous innovation is a necessary condition. Fostering collective innovation demands commitment, creativity and discipline of all the talented people in the organisation. Courage is necessary to experiment and to collaborate with other disciplines or even external parties. Courage is also necessary to say ‘stop’ in time. By challenging and utilising talented people at all layers of the organisation, you will find that new products, better processes and even new business models will spring to life. Encouraging managers and employees to work collectively and collaborate with external parties will inject new energy into the business and stimulate innovation, which is necessary for continuity.
Seeing and acting differently: collective innovation turns family businesses into industry leaders.
Emphasising Pure Collaboration
The organisation structure of a family business often grows organically, like a tree and its roots and branches. Defining clear roles and responsibilities for everyone within the organisation is a capacity that must be learned, but the advantage is that everyone knows what they can and may expect of each other.
Genuine teamwork means co-ordination and decision-making no longer take place ‘at the top’ but ‘at all levels of the organisation’. Meetings have a distinct structure, and they are focused on effective and action-specific decision making to keep employees clearly and consistently informed. A safe and trusted environment in which employees seek each other out and talk to each other is the result.
Seeing and acting differently: Structure and genuine teamwork promotes flexibility and flow.
Channeling Objective Drive
It is not uncommon for family businesses to be managed on the basis of intuition. It’s a strength that can be increased if objective facts are added to the mix. By knowing the actual position of the business in relation to its goals, both managers and employees can take corrective action in a timely manner.
Objective drive requires making explicit the implicit knowledge of family members and older employees. All employees can then use both facts and collective knowledge to make well-founded decisions at a faster tempo. The business becomes more pro-active as a result, and more likely to remain on course.
Seeing and acting differently: combining objectivity with intuition makes the family business more decisive.
Sometimes, seeing and doing things differently requires external support. It’s not about bringing in someone to tell family, staff and managers how things must change, but about developing and implementing new capabilities across the organisation – from the executive board to the shop floor. Outsiders with the right knowledge can introduce and effect changes that result in another way of working, a more effective structure, integrated processes and pro-active behaviour. This leads to a more professional organisation.
All five of these essential capacities are incorporated into our range of services.