Updated April 27, 2021
Many of my clients are proud of the family feel of their companies. They care about their people. They pride themselves on seeing the whole person. They intentionally create a bond of trust that moves them well beyond a typical “employer-employee” relationship.
The challenges we face
The last few years have been hard for the leaders of these companies. They haven’t been able to protect their employees from the tumultuous market environment that their companies are operating in. It’s been a struggle for people across the landscape of business. Bonuses have been cancelled, raises postponed, training missed, and some of the “family” have, sadly but necessarily, been let go.
A recent discussion with a leadership team was focused on how to balance the benefits of a family feel with the realities of operating a company. The rules of business can make that balance difficult to navigate. As the consultant and facilitator to this conversation, I pointed out that it is profitability that provides the flexibility to treat employees well. A notion not everyone is inherently familiar with.
The strategic bridge between the brain and the heart of family run businesses
Look at a company that treats its employees well, and chances are you are looking at a company that has a profitable business model. At a Board meeting with one of my family business clients – a company that has been passed down through several generations – they said it another way: “Always protect the money tree first.”
After the meeting, I thought, “If profitability is the foundation of an empathetic company, what is the foundation of profitability?”
A heart-felt way to raise profits
The answer to my question above has many parts, of course. We can examine the basics and nuances of strategy, productivity, discipline, teamwork, culture, accountability…the list goes on. But I’d say the thing that comes first, before making the profitability happen, is empathy. The ability to empathize with your customers gives you real understanding of what they need and how to make their lives better. Once you know this, and can connect with them in ways that they - your customers - value, the profits can follow.
Creating that family business feeling
If you want to create that great family feeling in your business, empathize with your employees. See the whole person, their strengths as well as their weaknesses, the trials and the triumphs. Connect with them on a human level, and form that bond with them. And, do the same with your customers. Empathize with them, and they’ll trust that you are the one that can help them solve their problems.
There are many values that a company can live by. If you haven’t considered having empathy as one of your company’s core values, it’s worth a look. And if you haven’t defined any of your core values…we should talk.