February 25, 2020

Two-thirds of UK businesses are family-owned and they come in all shapes, sizes, and industries. They account for almost 50% of private sector employment and provide millions of jobs – so no pressure if you’re running one of those family-owned businesses!

Many family-run businesses survive through generations, and certainly, the expectation is that the company will stand the test of time to be passed down to younger family members as a lasting legacy.

So how do you keep that family-run business on track?

With all business, success has a lot to do with the quality of your vision, aims and ambitions, and how you go about achieving them.

In some respects, you might assume that a family-owned firm is more likely to survive the long-term simply because the owners are probably more heavily invested in its future and success.

But as many a family-run firm will no doubt tell you, it’s not always as simple as that.

Defining a vision and setting goals that will help get you there can be much more complicated when you’re dealing with several family members, and perhaps even transitioning through generations of owners.

How do you set effective goals when, for example, one director is looking to retire (and maybe even thinking of selling their share), another wants to build a long-term career, and perhaps another is simply looking for a lifestyle business to supplement their income? And at the same time bearing in mind that if a business’s long-term goals don’t fit in with the personal goals of the individuals involved, then how likely is it to succeed really?

Goal setting strategies for your business

Goal setting is an effective strategy for keeping any business on track. Especially in a family-run firm, clear goals can help maintain a direction that takes into account all of the (sometimes contradictory) factors.

Long-term and short-term goals

Any successful goal strategy should encompass long and short-term goals.

Setting goals for the long-term will involve giving some real thought to where you want the business to be in the next 10 or even 20 years. You will want to factor in things like succession planning, who is next in line to take on the business and what their aims will be and whether anyone will be expecting a retirement income. Will the business have to buy anyone out, for example?

Short-term goals are what you want to achieve over the coming weeks and months but think of them as small steps towards your bigger long-term goals.

Clearly defined goals can help you figure out, and then focus on, exactly what is important to your business, and you can stop wasting time on anything that isn’t working towards those aims.

If you can agree on these goals with all directors in your family business, then everyone has a framework within which to operate.

How to set your business goals

Without knowing your business, we can’t set your goals for you (although please do get in touch if you’d like us to take a closer look), but there are some general parameters within which to work.

Deadlines: A good goal strategy has a timetable for what you want to achieve and when, and can include your over-arching long-term goals and the short-term steps that are going to help you get there.

Keep it real: Be realistic with your goals. Aim high and be optimistic, but don’t set yourself up for failure. If achieving the goal would involve sacrifices that no-one is willing to make, then it’s probably not a good goal.

Be precise: Make sure your goals, and particularly your short-term goals, are not too wishy-washy. Set yourself actual targets, such as: write two blogs each week, make follow-up calls with 10 customers every week, launch a new service by X date, employ a new member of staff by the next financial year, grow the business by X% in the next 12 months, and so on.

Streamline: Don’t have too many goals. Focussing on a few high-quality long-term goals, achieved through a number of short-term goals, is more achievable than trying to work on too much at once. This can also help you eliminate some of the extra ‘noise’ that’s taking up lots of your time but not really helping you get to where you want to be.

Measuring success: We soon lose motivation without the odd bit of praise or reward. Make sure you assess progress against your goals, so you can see how far you have come over a period of time. Reassess your goals if new opportunities have arisen, or things have changed, and this will also help you to stay motivated and keep on track.

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