If you’ve seen the BBC series The Fixer in which hotelier Alex Polizzi crusades to save Britain’s family businesses, you may have winced at some of what you saw; especially if you happen to own, work for, or invest in a small family business.
For those who are unfamiliar with the three television series to date, here is the synopsis… Ms Polizzi visits a different struggling family business each episode. Once the main areas of concern have been identified, she then uses her experience and knowledge to suggest how the ailing business might be turned around.
Strangely, many of the ideas put forward are viewed with skepticism or dismissed outright by the business owners, who either think they know best or are just too stubborn to accept an offer of help. Even when close to bankruptcy, some owners would rather sink than reach for the lifebelt being thrown to them.
The programme clearly demonstrates how difficult it can be in business to see the wood for the trees, especially for those involved at a macro level; and the need to step back and take in the wider picture.
“Good project management is essential and any internal differences need to be put to one side…”
As a small business-owner, like many others, I consider myself to be a capable all-rounder, taking pride in my ability to wear many hats, often at the same time. Even so, an important lesson I’ve learned over the years is when to seek help from those more suited to specific tasks and to do so at the right time.
The key is being prepared to accept you can’t be good at everything. If it becomes apparent that you or your colleagues lack certain skills or expertise, then the smart move is to look elsewhere to bridge the gap.
Of course, every penny counts and there’s a natural reluctance to shell out on assistance when you already have more than enough overheads. Better though to try and consider the longer-term value, not just financially but also in terms of time saved by getting things right first time.
Due to the largely subjective nature of design, achieving a common consensus when there is more than one client representative can often be challenging. When those individuals also happen to be related, the decision making process can feel almost impossible at times.
This is where professional, non-related personnel can make a vital contribution to your business. For example, a good design consultant should be able to keep their client focused on a creative solution whilst also helping to dissipate any potential conflict between family members; offering an independent perspective that cuts through any internal politics.
For such an arrangement to work to its full potential, it’s important to set out the ground rules early on. Objectives should be clearly defined and agreement reached as to who will make the final decision and how project effectiveness will be gauged.
Good project management is essential and any internal differences need to be put to one side for the sake of the family business and its future success. Maybe easier said than done but those who subscribe can expect to benefit from the impartial advice and guidance of a design professional, or other business consultants.
Of course, it’s perfectly natural to feel overly protective of our own little empires. Involving outside assistance requires a large degree of trust, raising the question…
Assuming Ms Polizzi is otherwise engaged, who should you turn to?
An individual consultant or company with a demonstrable track record of helping family businesses and other SMEs is likely to achieve the best result but it’s vital that you feel comfortable with whoever you appoint and that you’re able to respect them.
They, in turn, will listen carefully and show mutual respect whilst also challenging you with honest observations and possibly one or two potentially uncomfortable home truths.
A good consultant should only ever act in the very best interests of you and your business, remember this fact and you stand a great chance of achieving every future success.