Running a successful business is all about maximising efficiency, but too often small businesses struggle to do this. Because they grow organically, family businesses are particularly vulnerable to developing problems of this kind. The personal relationships involved can also get in the way of good organization. Resolving problems like this takes real strength of character, but it’s necessary if you want to build up a strong business that can support the family over the long term.
The most important factor in streamlining a business like this is absolute honesty. That includes being honest about your own failings – if, for instance, there are some tasks you routinely struggle with, or if you have a tendency to take on too much – and it means acknowledging the failings of people you care about. It’s usually best to start dealing with this through one-to-one conversations, so nobody feels embarrassed in front of others. You may find that the people you talk to have identified problems with their own work that you haven’t spotted. Following these conversations, bring your team together and start by letting each person raise concerns about their own work. This avoids the unpleasantness associated with people complaining about each other. If people do need to be told about problems they’re not aware of, they’ll be doing so in a situation where it’s already established that no one is perfect. You can then discuss possible solutions together.
Once problems have been identified, there are several ways you can try resolving them:
- Reallocating tasks. In a family business there’s no need to keep to traditional job descriptions as long as everyone is clear about who’s doing what. Play to individual strengths.
- Training. There are many good business and vocational training courses available free. Ask your local business support agency for advice.
- Outside talent. If something can’t be done effectively within the family, consider taking on a new member of staff or using outsourcing to access specialist skills as required.
Developing on-going business plans
Many businesses start out well because they have strong business plans, only to lose their way later when circumstances change. In fact, a business plan is something you should consider drawing up on an annual basis to make sure that you always have clear goals and a clear idea of how you can reach them. Ask each member of staff to contribute ideas in the run-up to your Annual General Meeting. This can help everyone to stay focused on possible business achievements rather than settling into a pattern of doing only as much work as is needed day to day.
Problems with drink and drugs
Some problems are more difficult to deal with in a family context than others, because they may not be easily admitted to. Whilst this may not be something you would first consider doing, having everybody in your team – you included – tested for drugs and alcohol every few months makes it easier to run a sober, responsible workplace, and companies such as http://www.matrixdiagnostics.co.uk/ offer reliable and affordable services. This can improve quality of work and reduce absences. It also means that if a family member is in trouble you can intervene and offer help and support before the problem gets worse.