02/18/17

Star Trek Ideals and Family Business

It’s a well-known fact that since its first airing in 1966, the Star Trek series has inspired generations of young people to become scientists. YouTube abounds with videos of astrophysicists; theoretical physicists; astronomers; cosmologists; giving lectures, taking part in conferences, presenting their latest findings. And in video after video, the scientists invoke their debt to Star Trek.

Star Trek’s optimistic view of the future continues to bring young people into careers where they see themselves helping to make that future a reality. In a way, the Star Trek world might be seen as a global business owned and operated by and for the family of mankind, one with diversity, innovation, communication, cooperation and courage.

The Star Trek world has similarities to well-established multi-generational family businesses. It has a far-seeing vision. It has a mission, and it has uplifting values. It encourages innovation—often the very lifeline for survival. Among long-lived family businesses can be found perhaps, some of the ideals that Star Trek showcases; a zest for exploration, flexibility, loyalty, job placement by virtue of inborn talents and acquired skills, mutual respect, integrity in leadership.

Could this kind of view, and these types of ideals, inspire your family’s young people to seek their place and their careers within your family business? What kind future do they see? Is it one they can wish to help realize?

02/11/17

Saved The Business—The Only Problem Is…

We all know the story of the surgeon reporting the operation went well; the only problem—the patient died.

Some thirty years ago family businesses became a subject of investigations, and advisors rushed to help them. Their initial thinking: because it is inherent in the nature of family-owned enterprises that leadership is by family members, the businesses lacked the necessary acumen and skills to be successful. Consequently, they focused on establishing procedures, protocols and practices that helped the businesses prosper. The only problem—the family died.

Since then emphasis on helping family businesses has shifted focus—and importantly so—onto family needs and goals, with expertise coming from a wide range of areas including psychology, family counseling, family systems, estate planning, mediation, conflict management, career development, substance abuse, wealth management and leadership development.

My own experience though, in providing life support for early-generation family businesses and their families, has revealed that many need to learn the importance of professionalizing the business and understand how to implement professionalization if they want to be successful across generations.

Professionalization is the process of moving a business from an owner-centric to a management-centric entity—one in which the business operates from established processes rather than requiring its leadership to provide daily supervision. Achieving this goal allows leadership to focus on the necessary entrepreneurial roles of business development, client cultivation and long-term planning for both the family and the business.

02/3/17

Listening to Chopin

An entrepreneurial client recently mentioned one of his favorite Ted Talks: The Transformative Power of Classical Music, by presenter Ben Zander. By way of various piano renditions of a piece by Chopin, Zander illustrates several aspects of understanding classical music that I found extremely relevant to family business success. https://www.ted.com/talks/benjamin_zander_on_music_and_passion

Ben Zander is conductor and music director of the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. I had known him through his book, national best seller, The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life. In it he describes his leadership style as a conductor as one of embracing possibilities. He has subsequently taught workshops on his approach to leadership in corporate settings.

Several ideas from his Ted Talk came through to me as having critical relevance to family business:

  • No one is tone deaf; rather, perhaps, they have not learned how to hear the music. The capacity of family members to be instrumental in business success may be overlooked even by themselves. Look for signs of it in their conduct of everyday life.
  • An important characteristic of a leader is not doubting for one moment the capacity of people to realize whatever it is that the leader is dreaming.
  • The job of a leader is to make the players powerful, and this awakens possibilities of creativity and expression. Making other family members powerful awakens possibilities in them that will benefit the family.
  • Placing similar emphasis on every note in your business will distract you from your view of the big picture.
  • Expecting a perfect performance does not allow for the creativity and spontaneity that produce a resilient and viable next generation.

All of these ideas point to ways of embracing possibilities within your family business. They speak of a leadership style of openness and confidence in the family, the business vision, and in success for generations to come.