When growing a family business, family business owners often find themselves at a crossroads – on one hand, there’s the wish to keep things ‘in the family’, and on the other, there are outside business coaches and consultants urging them to ‘professionalise’.
What does it actually mean to professionalise a business? And is keeping the business in family hands and professionalising it mutually exclusive goals?
Family businesses – particularly first or second-generation businesses where the founding force is still active – can generally be distinguished from corporations by the following characteristics:
This casual working space can be very conducive to entrepreneurial activities – allowing employees to thrive and grow in a way that big business doesn’t allow. Often, it’s the very reason entrepreneurial types leave the corporate sphere and strike out on their own – and also why family business owners recoil at suggestions that their enterprise should professionalise. After all, a more casual business operation has been sufficient to achieve business, financial and personal objectives thus far – so why change?
A clear distinction should be made between ‘professionalising’ and ‘corporatising’ a family business. To professionalise is merely to impose a professional structure to an entity and its processes and procedures. Corporatisation, however, is what fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants entrepreneurs fear most – to develop or turn a small business into a large corporation, or as
they may see it, the morphing of an innovative, inspired family enterprise into a staid corporation overly focused on processes and procedures.
Whilst some family business owners may indeed strive to turn a small business into a booming multinational, others may prefer to keep it straight and simple. That’s where professionalising comes in – a few well-considered tweaks here and there can benefit any family business, without detracting from its firm family roots and core values.
Professionalising can promote:
Professionalisation is associated with taking a business to the ‘next level’.
Consider embarking on a process of professionalising your family business when:
Professionalising is about enhancing the family business rather than making it into something overly complicated which doesn’t suit the family’s objectives. Some of the key points on how you can achieve professionalisation within your family business, include:
Professionalising your family business is a key step towards ensuring its longevity.