It can be hard to bring about changes in a family business. Roles and business plans are set in stone, and no one wants anything to change. Yet, change, is inevitable -- especially with digital interactions and technology influencing all aspects of a business.
Here are some approaches to consider when planning to implement a change in your family business:
Look at the bigger picture
Take a step back and analyse what's happening at a macro level in the industry. What are the trends that other players are embracing? Identify your customers' ever-shifting demands and buying behaviours. Explore new tools such as big data analytics, e-commerce or online customer service which will help run the business more effectively and also improve customer experience.
Stick to core strengths
Substantial changes are often needed for a firm to survive in an ever-changing business atmosphere. However, there are times, certain family businesses go overboard in adopting new trends. You need to recognise the difference between a short term fad and an overall direction the industry and customers are heading towards. Re-work on the business without changing its core DNA.
During the transition process, make a list of what your company does best and what distinguishes it from the competition. Keep this in mind and retain as much on the list as possible as you move forward with the change. Embracing new technology need not mean you abandon all old business practices. For e.g.: Walmart branched out into the e-commerce space to stay competitive with sites like Amazon, without affecting its original business strategy.
Loop in the employees
One of the hardest, yet important, part of a business transition is to get everybody on-board. In a family business, many employees have worked under a previous leadership or might even share DNA. It can get hard to convince them as they might hold an emotional stake in the company, and are likely to resist any change by a new force of leadership.
In a situation like this, clear communication is key. Be very honest about the company's outlook, the state of the industry and why a transition is necessary for the business. Take in feedback and advice, but be firm about why the company needs to adapt to the changing industry trends. When employees feel they are heard, they feel valued and can take ownership of the final plan.
Implementing changes into a business that has been run the same way for decades can pose tricky challenges. However, a family business needs to realise that when it keeps up with new technology and innovative business models, it will survive, and grow further in this competitive business environment.