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Guest column: How to stand out in your family-run business

Expert advises maintaining your identity while contributing to the greater good

November 21/28, 2016: Volume 31, Number 12

By Jacqueline Tabbah

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-4-09-49-pmThere is a fine line between respecting your family’s business that they’ve built from the ground up and being an innovator. This line can oftentimes feel like a tightrope, but once you make it to the other side, you will achieve a rewarding and meaningful career.

Your first experience working in your family business, you walk in and there is a system in place and this has been in place for year and you are told the system has been working for years. My advice is to embrace this system at first by trying things their way in order for you to earn and build trust. Trust is an essential component in any relationship, not just in your personal life but even more so in a family business. By building trust, you will also learn more about the business and over time you can slowly tweak the areas where you think there is room for improvement.

You also earn trust by respecting your family and the system that has worked successfully for them. It sounds simple but it is so important to treat them the way you want to be treated and acknowledge your differences in how you might approach business. You want to be taken seriously and your family members do, too.

Demonstrate proficiency at all times during office hours by communicating in a professional manner in the presence of employees and customers. The workplace is not the venue to make family jokes or have a heated discussion; instead set aside differences and work together respectfully. When families trust and respect each other, your employees will follow suit because they will see that you are taking your family business seriously.

After these fundamental concepts are established, you can start introducing your innovative ideas. My advice is to start with baby steps. Upgrade your social media game; it costs nothing and can really increase the company’s web presence. You can even reorganize your filing system by simply creating a shared drive or cloud-based system that everyone has access to at all times.

You may want to get involved in numerous local and national groups such as The Natural Stone Institute (MIA+BSI), World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) and National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), to name a few. Most of the national groups have local chapters. Start locally as your business is local and people tend to do business within their community.

Lastly, think outside the box. Successful family businesses thrive over generations because every person brings something new to the table. Each generation must adapt to fit the times. Learn everything you can from your fathers and mothers and build on that.

At the end of the day, we all have the same goal, to be a loving family and to work together successfully.

 

Jacqueline Tabbah is vice president of International Stoneworks, which has operated in Houston and its surrounding cities, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio and Austin for 28 years. She is slated to speak at The International Surface Event (TISE 2017), WE03—Managing a Successful Family Business Forum on Wednesday, Jan. 18 at 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Register online at tisewest.com.