Pages: Building our first-gen family business from scratch

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Bunny Pages.
Bunny Pages.

Since I left corporate life at age 49, my focus has been on our family business which now employs over 1,500 people.

How time flies. It’s hard to believe that I’ve now teamed up with my family of six for a total of 28 years in growing our businesses. While the experience has been largely wonderful and fulfilling, it has also presented its own set of unique dynamics and complexities. As I reflect on this journey, let me share with you five key lessons that I’ve learned from it:

1. Clear Communication and Defined Roles

Effective communication lies at the heart of any successful family business. Clearly outlining each family member’s role, responsibilities, and expectations from the start can help avoid potential misunderstandings and conflicts down the line.

Our company setup is unique because my five children don’t work together. Each one runs his or her own company or operation independently of each other and I’m the center of it all. I mentor, balance and deal with every conceivable happening that’s part and parcel of every family and business experience. This has worked well for us because we totally trust one another and our care factor borders on the extreme. But, this would have to change soon because I won’t be here forever.

2. Separating Family and Business Matters

Drawing a clear boundary between family dynamics and business operations is crucial for maintaining a healthy life balance. This is necessary to prevent business-related disagreements from spilling over into family life or vice versa, which is very hard.

Several years ago, both our family and business matters were under a single Viber group chat. That caused confusion and complications until Cheryl, my only daughter, suggested that it’s best for the two to be separate. We followed her suggestion. Now, family matters go to the Family group chat while the rest go to the Business group chat. We also try to minimize discussing business matters at our family get-togethers.

3. Cultivating a Culture of Respect and Collaboration

Mutual respect and collaboration are fundamental to the success of any family enterprise. Encouraging an environment where all family members feel valued, heard, and respected fosters a sense of collective ownership and commitment to the business’s success.

We do this by having regular management team meetings, one-on-one chats and monthly board meetings.

It also helps that I’m an open-minded person. I welcome all ideas, suggestions and criticisms regardless of the source. In my view, to shoot down or kill an idea before it has a chance to germinate is counter-productive for any group. From experience, it would just die a natural death if it wasn’t a good one anyway.

4. Nurturing Individual Growth and Development

Recognizing and nurturing each family member’s unique strengths and talents is essential in capacity building. I subscribe to the idea that we can only build on strengths and not on weaknesses. In our case we do our best to put the right people in the right seats or positions every time.

5. Planning for Succession and Long-Term Sustainability

For first-generation family businesses, succession planning is a critical consideration. This has been on my mind for over five years now. Establishing a clear roadmap for the transition of leadership and ownership, including discussions around future roles and responsibilities, can help ensure a smooth generational transfer. I see this issue as one of our major challenges moving forward in the coming years.

In conclusion, building a business with all members of the family on board, requires a delicate balance of professionalism, open communication, and a shared commitment to the business’s success. While it may present its own set of challenges, the opportunity to work alongside loved ones towards a common goal can be immensely fulfilling and rewarding when approached with the right mindset and strategies. I consider being able to work harmoniously with my family not only one proud accomplishment in my life, but also one of God’s greatest blessings.

Good luck on your own journey towards a successful family business!

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