How do family businesses do it? How do they manage to work together, make decisions, decide who is doing what now and in the future?
I was reflecting on this whilst on the phone to my mum planning the upcoming Christmas Day festivities. After… well, let’s just say a lot of years (your secret is safe with me mum!), you’d have thought planning the big day would be a well-oiled machine. But no, it continues to be a mission of global proportions. First of all, every year we discuss what time we’ll be sitting down to dinner. Seriously, who cares? Well it turns out my sister likes a plan, likes routine. It has always been fourteen hundred hours sit down for a starter of pâté – Brussels pâté to be exact (or orange juice if you are under that age of ten – I don’t know why, it has just always been like that!)
The meal preparation: we all have jobs to do. Actually, let me correct that. As the oldest child I have determined we should all have jobs and not leave it all to mum. My little brother, at the age of 31, still has issues with my dictatorship approach. I do the potatoes (it’s my speciality, so plays to my strengths), mum is on the turkey, my sister’s on dessert and the brother is on veg peeling duty (well he shouldn’t argue, should he!). My stepdad, he’s on the ‘festive tipples’… I will say no more on that.
The kitchen is never big enough, space is always in short supply and by 10am we’re up to seven on the arguments count. By 2.01pm we’re sat down. You look around and it is always the same, every year, without doubt… smiles and family happiness everywhere. The food is as delicious as you could imagine, everybody is content and all arguments and debates are forgotten. On reflection, we could have planned it earlier; we could work out what people enjoy doing (although my brother’s choice of sofa and TV is not an option in my book). As our individual families grow, no doubt so will the roles and so will the arguments. I’m sure I could do turkey! In fact, why not do duck, scrap the turkey… My family doesn’t do change; one year we went for the buffet option due to numbers… I don’t think we spoke that Christmas.
Taking the Christmas dinner analogy and applying in to the family business boardroom; those that get it right, play to each other’s strengths. They talk about their strategy, they are open in their debates, and succession planning has already been tackled. I take my Santa hat off to you. The rest are like my brother, hoping they are not on peeling duties for another year.
Season’s greetings to you all and your families.
Craig Skelton is a director in our Assurance team in London. You can contact him on +44 (0) 20 780 49418 or by email at email@example.com.