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Keeping it in the family – top tips for running a family business

Family-run businesses tend to be successful for multiple reasons including commitment, stability and flexibility. But keeping a successful family business at the top as it transitions through the generations can be hard to navigate.

Stephen Frankel, founder of family run business Polypouch, shares his top four tips for running a family business.

1. Make customer service the core of your business structure 

One of the many advantages of a family run business is the high level of customer service the client receives. This is where the structure of the business really comes to fruition. If the structure of your business is planned around customer satisfaction, as well as acquisition, the business will thrive and the customer will become a repeat client. Policies, red tape and the ability to act fast are some of many issues that crop up with large corporate firms, so make customer satisfaction including turnaround times, customer response speed, and the satisfaction of a personalised service your main priority in a family run business, by structuring the team around this objective.

2. Ensure your business is successful on the inside

In a family run business, keeping work in the workplace can be challenging as hours tend to be longer and team members can easily become too stretched. If this is the case, it is important to make sure the team are well supported, and any concerns raised are not only listened to but also actioned as soon as possible. A business will change how it operates frequently, especially as it grows and adds new products and services, and so will the team and how it operates internally. It is so important to address issues – don’t ignore the signs of tension, instead face them head on – as small niggles can build, and sometimes end in a high turnover of staff or the team feeling hostile to one another. Remember your business is only as successful as the team behind you carrying out the service, and when it’s family, it’s even more important to make sure everyone is happy and plans are in place for commending success and addressing issues. In a small family run business, the little things matter, so think about employee initiatives, regular reviews highlighting the success of the individual, promotions, pay rises and celebrating the wins. Every family run business will have its own pros and cons, and in order to be successful, the founders must take advantage of the pros and overcome the cons by avoiding becoming one of many family run businesses which don’t survive past the first or second generation. 

3. Next generation of talent 

It is also important to future proof for the next generation of talent coming through the business. Family members generally want to work in a secure and friendly environment that brings with it positive connotations of success. A continuation of family members employed within the business means that there is a common understanding of the long-term growth of the business – which also looks great to the customer. The fact that family members also have a willingness to contribute their own financial funds in order to start further sub-ventures for the business is another reason that family members who are staff need to be treasured. 

If the next generation of business talent isn’t coming from the family, it is important to employ someone young, who can see how the business is run and its reputation, as well as where it is going. Remember, if talent is recruited outside of the family, their wants and needs will be completely different and as such you must understand those requirements and add them to your business plan in order to retain that outside person.

4. Suppliers are key, as is your product

For many family businesses, your product and its suppliers are the key to running a successful business. It is imperative to get your product right, and to always be ahead of the game and trends. For us in the packaging industry, we began looking at sustainable and recyclable pouch options for our clients many years ago, and we are delighted to work with some amazing consumer companies who are now changing the way they package their products to benefit the environment, for their customers who are sustainably focussed. By having a firm grasp on what good looked like, and our turnaround time being quicker than others – we had a lot of knowledge that impressed the client and kept them as a customer long term. Make sure you put time into understanding trends, whether that is by signing up to any collaborative institution in your area of expertise or any industry action plans so you can be ahead of the game. Continual research, growth and adaptation is the key to a successful family run business.

Stephen Frankel, Managing Director and Founder of Polypouch UK (www.polypouch.co.uk)

After years of working in the packaging industry, Stephen Frankel founded his own packaging company, Polypouch, in December 2010. Polypouch, which is located in Watford, began trading in early 2011, specialising in all pouch packaging. Polypouch stocks over 250 different pouches ranging in quality and size. Stephen’s daughter, Sam Frankel heads up the business as Sales Director, along with another 10 personnel, who work incredibly hard to supply big name brands such as Cadburys, Schwartz Spices, and most recently TK Maxx. 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/s.frankel-ltd 

Stephen Frankel