Help your non-family executives to succeed

What can you do to create a smooth working relationship between your family ownership group and your key non-family managers?

Here are some suggestions offered at a Transitions Canada 2018 panel session entitled “Leaders, Mentors and Confidants: Tapping the Expertise of Non-Family Executives.”

Participating in the panel were Andrew Wexler, non-family president and CEO of Herschend Enterprises; Peter Willson, fourth-generation chairman and CEO of Willson International; and John Neretlis, principal of consulting firm Next Gen Anesti and a married-in member of the Rowntree business family.

Clarify roles. It must be understood that it’s OK for a non-family executive to say “no” to family members who try to interfere with the executive’s role.
Create a family liaison. Having a single point of contact between the executive and the family will limit the executive’s exposure to contentious family issues.
Develop family governance. Families who have structures and processes for managing their issues help their non-family executives to succeed.
Stay on top of noise and spin. Non-family executives should be proactive in reaching out to the family liaison when family dynamics start to percolate.
Be aware that this is the executive’s career. The executive has been hired to do a job within the organization. If the family interferes, the executive will leave to avoid harm to their career.
Provide education on both sides. The family and the executive must undergo a learning process. The family must learn proper interaction with the executive; in turn, the executive must learn the family’s goals and expectations for their business.
Build trust. Non-family executives and the family must establish a trusting relationship.

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