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Elle’s Questions: How do I get previous generations to do business differently?

By July 6, 2015July 12th, 2023Management and Leadership3 min read

Dear Elle,

 It’s been almost 20 years since mom started the family business. She’s done a great job building a stable company through her relationships, but we’ve flat lined. We haven’t seen any sizeable growth in the last 3 years and our (her) business relationships are being slowly pulled in other directions.

I presented her with ways we could upgrade our technology and approach new business opportunities. She shut me down pretty quick. Any ideas how I should approach this with her?

Elle’s Answer

Addressing change with business owners – especially when you’re related – can be a challenge. The next time you approach your mom, there are a few things you might consider when presenting your recommendations.

1.) Start by planning a neutral location. Don’t make your new ideas a part of a formal presentation or meeting. Talk over dinner in a casual conversation.

2.) Recognize the significant accomplishments and successes she has had. Sometimes suggestions and recommendations can feel like criticism, which can put people on the defense.

3.) Identify the core values and motivators that have rooted and sustained her since the inception of the business. Explain to her that you have similar motivations and feel just as passionately about the business.

4.) Make it a conversation about “us.” Show her that your goals for the business are the same as her goals.

Now, when discussing new processes or technology a previous or older generation may come with an attitude of, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Technology can feel intimidating and changing long held processes can be overwhelming.

Here are a couple of general talking points that may help your mom open up to your ideas:

“We have something special” – You value connecting with people on a personal level. We can still integrate that with the aid of technology. We are able to reach more people. We can infuse your “human” approach into our social media, website and other online activities.

“Technology levels the playing field” – We need to stop viewing ourselves as the little guy, small town, shop on the corner. A business like ours can make just as much of a market impact as a large corporation with the right technology. Technology provides companies the same tools and assets, and when those are utilized well, a small company can grow their market share at the same, if not better, rate.

“Competition is fierce” – In this age of entrepreneurialism, there will always be a model of our business that can do it better or faster. If we want to be competitive in our field we must constantly adapt and reinvent. A $10 million dollar company can’t continue using QuickBooks. They need more secure and advanced technology to grow with them.

“Our world is smaller” – Technology has made our world smaller and more accessible. It’s an exciting time to expand our business beyond what was imagined at conception. You might have intended for the company to remain regional, but why stop there when you have the opportunity to become something much greater? Not to mention, with a growing family comes growing demands.

Communicating with founding business owners can be a challenge, but it shouldn’t hold your family business back from growing to the next level. REGENERATION can help facilitate these conversations.