How to maintain a traditional family business through the ages

Family run businesses are the backbone of the British economy. We have family businesses still running today, that were originally founded in as early as the 16th century, passed down from generation to generation.

The trouble with this is that many family businesses are starting to struggle in an economy that continues to change and fluctuate dramatically year on year. These days, it can feel impossible to keep a traditional family business running, but there are tips and tricks you can use to keep your family business marching on.


Be flexible and adapt to change

Being a ‘traditional’ family business doesn’t have to mean it’s the old way or the highway, it is possible to keep your ‘traditional’ status and move with the times.

Digging your heels in and refusing to move with the, very rapidly, changing times will not preserve your family business, in fact, it could have the opposite effect entirely.

There is no shame in giving in to things like new technologies and new ways of running your business. Adapting to these changes could ensure your business has a long and fruitful life.


Don’t be afraid to let outsiders into your business

When you are completely wrapped up in your own family business bubble, it can be hard to relinquish control to those outside of the family. However, you can still have a family business even though you’ve let in others outside of your circle.

If you find you need a certain skill or expertise that you don’t currently have within the family, it is possible to bring in someone with those skills to help out and make your business stronger.


Keep communication open

Make sure you have regular and open discussions to ensure you are all in the loop with how your business is faring. This is a great way of addressing any small issues before they get out of control.

Allow each other the room and ability to find solutions as a team and tackle these as a collective, rather than trying to face these issues separately.

In a recent interview with Grasmere Gingerbread partner, Joanne Hunter, Joanne told Alexander & Co why communication was so important when running a family business.

“Don’t make it too informal, otherwise it gets lost in personal stuff, also staff think you talk about it all the time too, so they think you know what the other family members know!

It’s easier to shout, blame and show anger to a family member rather than an employee, and I think employees think that family members have it easier – I think they have it harder.  You need to check yourself and say ‘would I speak to an employee like this?’”


Don’t be afraid of scaling down

Scaling down doesn’t always mean that you have failed or your business is in trouble, it is often a preventative measure to ensure that no harm comes to the business and finances are being used in the best way possible.

If scaling down has been suggested to you, take it in your stride and put the business before your own pride. It could be something as simple as opting for a smaller office or even cutting down on unnecessary spending.

If you’re running a long standing family business, ensuring that you are open and honest with each other, listen to new ideas and take on board new strategies and changing technology, you’ll find it a lot easier to keep your family business up to date and relevant.

Looking for help with your family business finances? We have accountants with specialist family business accounting experience, ready and waiting to help you with your family business accounts.


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