Nurturing Roots: Lessons from a Family Business Journey

by Jan 31, 2024Insights

Carrying on the legacy of a family business can be a challenging feat. According to Harvard Business Review, only about 30% of family businesses are successfully handed off to the next generation. Of those, only 10% will make it to the third generation of family ownership. But don’t let these numbers fool you: taking up the mantle of managing the family business is absolutely a worthy endeavor. And beyond just surviving, it’s possible for a multi-generational family business to thrive!

Just ask Brendan Bolhuis of Beacon Recycling, who found himself navigating the twists and turns of running a second-generation family business with his brothers. Between the challenges and heartwarming moments of their story there’s wisdom any leader can learn from. Whether you’re operating a family business or not, I hope you find these pieces of advice helpful.

Tools to Navigate Highs & Lows

Working with family has ups and downs, but being able to navigate the difficult moments effectively can make owning a family business incredibly rewarding. There are many stereotypes about how difficult it can be to work with family—especially when times are tough and emotions are running high—but operating a family business can be an incredibly fulfilling experience.

There’s a great blog on the EOS Worldwide website that talks about how EOS can simplify running a family business by using the Six Key Components™. Often, emotions rise because the people involved truly care about the business’ success. By understanding how to harness that level of care into the six areas—Vision, People, Data, Issues, Process, and Traction—family businesses can arm themselves with a greater chance of success.

The Power of Caring and Truth

One of the greatest lessons Brendan learned from his father was about caring for other people. Often the secret sauce in a family business is seeing each person as “family.” At Beacon, a core value is “Importance of Family.”

In the video, Brendan shares a story of when he saw his dad live that value. In particular, when his dad encouraged one of Brendan’s friends to seek out higher education in exchange for employment at Beacon Recycling. While his friend may have been somewhat frustrated at the time, that work experience and formal education set him up with the necessary tools to be successful in the future. As a leader, Brendan’s dad was able to see that friend’s potential.

In any business, but especially a family business, an emphasis on mentorship and a caring spirit can greatly impact a person’s life for the better.

Making Necessary Changes

The Bolhuis brothers didn’t decide to implement EOS by chance. It was a conscious decision based on the idea that change is not only helpful, but sometimes necessary. Even though they weren’t 100% sure it would work, they were willing to give it a try, and that ultimately made all the difference.

As it turns out, a little bit of structure was just what their company needed! From their organizational chart and our “Right Person Right Seat” mentality to cascading the L10 meeting throughout their entire organization, collectively deciding to make organizational changes has allowed them to continue successfully running their business even better than before.

Beyond the Bottom Line

Running a family business comes with its own unique challenges. Beyond just caring about the bottom line, it’s about carrying on a legacy built on the efforts of previous generations. But by embracing change and leaving “how we’ve always done it” behind, family businesses can open themselves up to more sustainable success and better business practices.

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