Which One Is More Appropriate in a FamBiz?
During a recent board meeting for a local charity, the Executive Director asked us for guidance around a situation that was troubling her. The answer I gave her reminded me of advice my Dad shared with me decades ago.
Since Dad was the first Family Business owner I ever knew, and still the one upon whose wisdom I typically rely most, this incident provided a nice opportunity to share it here.
While Dad didn’t have a specific FamBiz application, because he concentrated on his own business, I do think about other people’s businesses, so I will adapt it to that situation.
Pandemic Safety or Easy Cash
The non-profit on whose board I serve has a large hall we rent out on occasion. Since our province has been on “essential services only” lockdown, that rental income really dried up.
Our government has allowed TV and Film production to qualify as essential, which, while being a bit of a headscratcher, became and opportunity for us.
We were approached by production crews to rent our hall for their people to take breaks and have their meals.
“Should we accept these rentals?”, was the question from our E.D. “With so many government regulations because of our food bank, maybe we should ask first.”
“How much do these rentals pay?”, came the first question.
Some Things Are “No-Brainers”
When I heard the answer, which was a decent sum, I replied that it was better to go ahead and do it, and ask for forgiveness later, if we got into trouble.
It seemed inadvisable to me to wait and ask for permission first. And that brought back memories from my father.
With Dad, it was typically when he wanted to build something that might require a permit. He would “play dumb” and go ahead and build, figuring that asking for permission would cause undue delay and possible extra costs.
In our charity example, it was a no-brainer.
But what about in a family business, when you’re a rising generation “future leader”, does this advice also work?
All About Seizing Opportunities to Lead
There’s a plethora of potential examples that cover a wide swath of situations where this could apply, and the answer will of course vary depending on the context.
The message I want share here is that when there’s a doubt, oftentimes making the leap, and taking action, will be perceived as the better option.
When I work with different generations of a business family, I notice that some rising generation family members will defer to their elders on too many decisions, for far too long.
Yes, I understand the attitude of “But if I screw up, Dad will be mad”; been there, done that.
Act as If I Weren’t Here; What Would You Do?
As I wrote those words, I actually had a flashback to the 1980’s, when I once asked for Dad’s direction on a decision. I don’t recall any details, but I do distinctly remember his words.
“What would you do if I wasn’t here?”
Interesting, I thought. And from that point on, for issues and decisions that were not critical, and for which a timely response was important, I began to make more of the decisions in my sphere of influence than previously.
Naturally it was better for both of us that way.
And, importantly, this began an ever-increasing responsibility load that I was able to successfully take on for myself. Another Win-Win.
They’re Probably Secretly Waiting for It
There are certainly some exceptions, but for the most part, parents are actually pleased, relieved, and proud when their offspring are able to take on more important roles, responsibilities, and decisions.
They’ll usually forgive you if you make a mistake, too.
Asking for permission on too many minor questions, for too long, is only going to delay the important transitions of knowledge, experience, and decision-making that are key to making a family business succession successful.
A Gradual, Iterative Process (Like So Many Others)
These transitions are a long time in the making, and tend to evolve gradually. They’re also iterative, meaning that you do something, learn from it, maybe take a step back, evaluate, and try again.
Over time, you make progress in the desired direction
Eventually, because a family is truly interdependent, especially over the long term, you may get to the point where you resemble a family discussed in Asking for Permission in a Family Business.
Eventually, the shoe gets to be on the other foot!