I once worked at a family run business which had many family members working at it. Both the founders (husband/wife) and their kids were there.
Family businesses have some very unique challenges, like kids often get to step into ‘management’ roles at higher salaries than their peers, simply because they’re family. Their aptitude for the position may have little bearing on whether or not they get the job.
But I don’t want to talk specifically about family businesses today. I want to talk about process.
At my previous employer (outdoor outfitter) we had a rental sheet and checklist you had to fill out to rent a kayak or canoe to someone. Every season we’d train the new employees to use the form. We’d explain how important it was to have a form — initialed by them — each time something was rented out. Typically, the new employees would comply for the first few weeks and everything went well, then they’d stop using the sheet.
The reason, we were always told, was that the owners or one of the owner’s kids didn’t log a rental through the ‘official’ sheet. Sometimes they just wrote something on a scrap of paper and put it in the rental book. Or worse yet, they just left the scrap of paper on their desk.
When this happened, it left the employees feeling like the process was merely a suggestion, rather than the way things needed to be done.
Every summer, we wasted time discussing this issue over and over, trying to keep people consistently using the rental forms. We’d even have full meetings about it, led the owner, who would then proceed to ignore the process again within a few days.
You set the standard
As a business owner you set the standard for how things should be done. Do you have a project management system you want everyone to use? Are you emailing them things instead of putting it in the project management system?
If you do, then don’t be surprised when you find out that lots of stuff has stopped going in the project management system. Your actions — by using email instead of the system you set up — has trained them that they don’t really need to put things in the project management system.
Use the tools in your company all the time. Set the standard high for using them correctly and your employees will follow suit.