Monday, July 25, 2016

5 steps to keeping it in the family

Ross Darby
By Ross Darby, Director of Business Development 

I’m lucky. Right out of college, I found a job that I love… thanks to my family owning some pretty innovative businesses. Knowing that I was going to be the FOURTH generation of Darbys in the death care profession, I studied family business in college and I learned some interesting facts:
  • 90% of American business enterprises are family businesses.
  • 62% of total U.S. employment is thanks to these enterprises.
  •  Only 30% of family businesses in America will pass the reigns to the next generation, even though close to 70% would like to keep it in the family.
The most shocking stat for me was that by the fourth generation, only 3% of family businesses continue to exist!

There are hundreds of reasons why family businesses don’t continue, and I can’t address all of them. But, I have 5 doable steps to help any family business thrive.  

Teamwork makes the dream work.
Routinely complete projects with every generation involved. Not only will you “win” together, but you’ll also be surprised how much you can learn from each other.

Communication is key.
Open communication regarding projects, changes and people will make things run smoother. Many issues and unpleasant surprises can be avoided just by talking.

Don’t go to bed mad at each other.
Sure, it’s a saying used for married couples, but it can be applied to business too.  Never let issues go unresolved. Think before reacting. Don’t stew about things too long.

Don’t let the fear of change rule you.
When one generation starts daydreaming of retirement, it can be stressful on every generation. Big changes are scary, but they can be profitable too. I believe if you aren’t changing, you aren’t growing. Let the next generation know that you expected them to pick up where you left off… yes, and raise the bar even higher!

Have a plan.
The time to start a succession plan was YESTERDAY! Create a step-by-step plan and share that with the next generation.

The death care industry is unique, including its large number of multi-generation businesses. Personally, I love that aspect. It’s something I want to continue. I don’t want to be the last generation. Do you? If you’re a family business, join me in making a commitment to use these steps and grow the passion for generations to come.

This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at

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