Making Changes In A Family Owned Business
A father speaks to his grown son.
There is coffee between them. Or beer. Or something stiffer.
They are at Dad’s house, in Florida or Arizona, where men and women who have led successful lives go to enjoy three or four decades.
In the 1950s, the father’s father started the family business, which has served its customers loyally for about 60 years now. Some customers have been with the company for 30 years or longer. Some staff members have been in the family’s employ for generations.
Today, the son’s son, the fourth generation, has started working in the company.
The father, taking a sip of coffee, or bourbon, speaks to his son:
“I don’t understand all the email today. When I was running the place, we barely even used the phone. We’d just go and see people.”
The son, who shall speak in italics, considers his father’s statement and replies:
“I keep telling the sales people to pick up the phone. Did you know our system tracks how much time everyone spends on the phone? So I took a look at the log. Guess the average number of hours they spend on the phone, per week.”
There is a pause, and the dad swirls his drink, which is on the rocks.
“The sales people? Twenty hours. At least half their working hours. More on the inside.”
“Come on! Not 10?”
“Four hours! Our average inside and outside sales person spends four hours per day on the phone.”
The father is incredulous. He looks down into his vodka drink.
“Get out of here! They work 45 hour weeks. What are you talking about?!”
“Isn’t it crazy that we’ve grown the company to this level with our people, whose job it is to talk to customers and prospects, spending less than 10 percent of their day on the phone?”
“I’d say. I can’t believe it.”
“I called some friends in the industry and it’s the same in their companies. The most successful sales people are spending about eight hours a week on the phone, and the average is four to five hours.”
“But surely they’re visiting customers the rest of the week, because in my day —”
“Nope. We average maybe one or two customer visits per week, per outside person.”
The father, protecting his Manhattan with one hand, slams his other hand on to the table. “So what the hell are they doing with the other 40 hours of their week?”
“Email. Web browsing. Checking the scores. Having some meetings. Preparing. Researching. Having lunch. But for their jobs, mostly email. Oh, and text messages now, too.”
Silence. Shaking heads.
“We’re working on it. We’re going to mandate more phone time. From me to the executives to the managers, every group’s phone time will go up.”
“That’s a difficult change.”
“For sure. Change isn’t easy, people will resist.”
“Son,” said the father, sipping his Bloody Mary, “people always resist change.”
“I KNOW! It’s one of the hardest things I have to deal with running the place now. Some of them just do what they want, no matter what we ask. In fact, we’ll talk about it, they nod and agree, then they go back to their desk and do exactly what they were doing before.”
“Yep. Welcome to running a multi-generational company. Don’t forget, some of these people were working here when you were a boy.”
“Some of them still call me the kid! I’m the CEO of the company, and they call me kid! Did people resist like this when you were working?”
“Oh yes. You have to remember, people don’t like change. They don’t like new work, especially if they’ve been doing the same thing — like not talking on the phone — for a long time.”
The father sips his single malt, getting louder now, more animated.
“If you want to make change, you need a system, son. You need to make sure people know this isn’t a passing fad for you, a flavor of the month. You need to get every level of management involved, top to bottom. Everyone needs to know what you expect, and you must meet about it regularly and discuss it.
“Too many companies simply launch a new initiative and that’s the end of it. The announcement is the end. The announcement must be the beginning. It must be the first of many steps. People must have a way to report their progress. Managers need a way to give people feedback.
“The people must see that this new initiative of ours, say, increasing phone time, is being measured. And it must be done over time. Not for a week or two.
“Son, if you want to make real change, you must build new habits in people. You need to change their behavior permanently. And you do so by changing the culture.”
There is silence again.
The father, wisdom shared, leans back and swirls his wine in the glass.
“You’re right. You know, I’m reading this book called ‘The Revenue Growth Habit,’ and the author, Alex Goldfayn, says that sales growth is a matter of simply communicating more with customers and prospects. He’s a consultant and specializes in growing multi-generational family businesses, like ours. He systematizes fast, simple sales communications — with oversight and accountability — for all customer facing staff. He says his typical client grows by 10 to 20 percent in its first year of implementing his approach.”
The father considers this, downs what’s left of his coffee (black), and proclaims:
Contact Alex Goldfayn, CEO of the Evangelist Marketing Institute, at 847-459-6322 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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