If You Want Your Business to Live, Consider This–And Get Your Father On Board

Question

I grew up working in our family’s business under my dad’s mentorship. I’ve learned a lot from him and have always admired him. Many years ago, my dad and I agreed that when he retired, I’d pay him fair market value, minus a deduction for sweat equity, for the business. That’s three years from now.

I’m worried about the shape the business will be in if my dad doesn’t make changes soon—or at least allow me to make changes. We haven’t made a profit since last October, and have been in the red since January. The problem—our employees. All but one of the solid ones have retired. We can’t seem to hire good replacements, or at least not ones that stay when they find other employers who allow them more flexibility. We can allow some employees to work from home for part of the week and allow other employees to come in an hour later or leave an hour earlier as long as they get all their work done.

My dad has owned this business for thirty years and insists on managing the business the “way he’s always done it.” He’s “married” to 8 to 5 as the workday and reminds me the business consistently made a profit under his leadership. When I argued, he got angry and said, “those things you learned in college don’t necessarily work in the real-world.”  

We fought and haven’t spoken since. How do I get through to him when even our financials don’t convince him we need to change how we run things? And is it best to wait for him to say something?

Answer:

Why wait? If you want to break this logjam, apologize to your dad for arguing. Tell him what you’ve told me, that you admire him. You won’t get through to him by fighting; he knows how to dig in his heels when someone comes at him. Further, he may believe your business can ride things out, as anyone who’s been in business for thirty years has weathered times of low to no profit. He’s possibly forgotten, however, that part of what brought him success was learning every day what worked, what didn’t, and realizing “here’s what’s changed and here’s how we need to adapt.”

Talk with him about the challenges you see, so you and he can together create a game plan. Here’s what you, your dad, and other business owners need to face.

Recession

A recession may be coming. According to the Conference Board, a member-driven think tank that offers future predictions, over sixty percent of CEOs anticipate a recession coming in the next year1. Another fifteen percent of surveyed CEOs report their region is already in recession.1 Layoffs and hiring freezes are occurring the tech world.2 The number of #OpentoWork banners on LinkedIn profiles have hit the level seen when the pandemic began.2

Employee leverage

Despite the looming recession, there are still five million more job openings than unemployed people in the U.S.3 For many months, half of all employers haven’t been able to fill their open positions. With employers desperate to fill vacancies but unable to find solid job candidates; talented applicants receive multiple job offers. Employees expect a lot and leave employers that won’t give it.

Workforce changes

As I wrote in a recent article about how the pandemic changed employees, https://bit.ly/3Oif5cy, employees gained “COVID clarity” concerning their life priorities as a result of the pandemic disruption. They became less willing to sacrifice to “get ahead” with their employer. You can, however, find solid employees who want what you and your father offer, a solid small business under stable leadership—if you’ll meet them halfway.

Don’t argue for flexibility; give your dad the facts, all of which I included in chapter 8 of Managing for Accountability, https://amzn.to/3IKB0Yw. Half of the 1583 professionals surveyed by Harvard Business Review stated that they would leave their employers if offered a more flexible alternative.4 Deloitte & Touche’s research puts bottom-line numbers to the importance flexibility plays in retention. Their data reveals a $41.5 million savings in employee turnover costs by retaining employees that stated they would have left if they hadn’t been able to work a flexible schedule.5

According to a 2018 survey by FlexJobs, 80 percent of employees surveyed reported that they would choose a job offering a flexible schedule over one that did not. These employees also stated that they would feel more loyal to employers that provided a flexible work schedule. Additionally, 35 percent of surveyed employees stated they prioritized a flexible work schedule over a more prestigious position and 30 percent reported they placed a higher value on a flexible work schedule than on additional vacation time.6

Finally, three years goes by in the blink of an eye when one owner transitions to another. Remind your dad he might want to start loosening the reins.

1 Recession Is Coming by the End of 2023, Say Nearly Two-Thirds of CEOs (businessinsider.com)

2 Here’s How To Avoid Getting Laid Off (forbes.com)

3 https://www.cnbc.com/2022/03/29/there-are-now-a-record-5-million-more-job-openings-than-unemployed-people-in-the-us.html

4 https://hbr.org/2018/06/96-of-u-s-professionals-say-they-need-flexibility-but-only-47-have-it

5 https://hiring.monster.com/employer-resources/workforce-management/employee-performance/employee-engagement-ideas/

8 https://www.flexjobs.com/employer-blog/the-benefits-of-allowing-employees-a-flexible-schedule/

If you want more strategies on retaining today’s employees, you’ll find additional content in Managing for Accountability, https://amzn.to/3IKB0Yw

Subscribing to the blog is easy

If you’d like to get 3 to 5 posts a week delivered to your inbox (and NO spam), just add your email address below. (I’ll never sell it.) I’m glad you’ve joined this vibrant blog. Thank you!

3 thoughts on “If You Want Your Business to Live, Consider This–And Get Your Father On Board

  1. Unfortunately, the father needs to realize that the 60-to-70-hour work week with no overtime pay, and nickel candy bars are ancient history. Adapting to the times is critical to surviving now more than ever. Giving up control of the business he “birthed” may be so foreign to him that it may not happen in his lifetime. Working for or with relatives is often a heavy cross to bear….

  2. This discussion of long-standing vs. new ideas for managing business, employee work hours, and balancing remote and onsite, family time and work time is insightful and balanced. The child of the dad who owns the business might be well advised to show a work schedule that allows for time off and remote work, later start times, etc. How much advance notice is needed for time off? How many employees need to be available at various times during the day? How will employees be incentivized?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.