How to recruit the very best senior people into a family business

It’s no secret that family businesses offer some of the most rewarding job opportunities; capitalising on the unique strength of providing an excellent working environment, a committed team and real sound family values.

A recent report by the Institute for Family Business concluded that employees of family owned businesses have greater job satisfaction and loyalty to the firm than those working for their corporate counterparts.

Bringing a senior person into a family culture can be tricky if they are to fit into the excellent working environment, a committed team and shared core values. It’s also key that the people brought into the family fold can settle quickly, be retained and deliver the key objectives. Finding them in the first instance can often be the biggest challenge but once identified, can be life changing for everyone.

For many family businesses it’s difficult to find and retain people who are loyal to the family and prioritise the business whilst being dedicated to the company’s vision.

1. Give yourself time and you will have more time to give Don’t underestimate the time factor – be prepared to factor in months rather than weeks of work. Selecting the right person to fit into the unique culture of a family firm and overcoming the sensitivities of bringing an outsider inside is a difficult but crucial process.

The appointment and selection process takes a great deal of invested time, patience and effort to find a key senior figure to slot nicely into your company.

2. Before beginning, plan carefully Plan well in advance and don’t rush the process or decision. The chances of the perfect fit walking through the door are marginal, working out why and who you need as well as identifying and finding the right person in terms of skills and personality takes real thought and discussion between the senior decision makers of the organisation.

3. Assumptions are the termites of relationships Communicate to the whole team and be crystal clear with your existing team about the position you want to fill. Why and what are the main objectives for bringing a new team member on board? What are the long term needs of your business?

Spend a lot of time really identifying the skill gaps needed to take the business forward, this may require a lot of honesty about where your core strengths and weaknesses lie within your existing team.

4. The devil is in the detail Gather as much information as possible during the recruiting process. Getting to know the individual and finding out exactly what they are capable of and how they interact in the work environment is crucial.

Carry out a few detailed face to face interviews, arrange for candidates to make a presentation and to run a training session on a key area of the business. Organise time for potential hires to come into the office for a couple of days to see if they fit in.

5. The joy of the mind is a measure of its strength Consider psychometrics and profiling; these are great tools and when used correctly, allow you to approach a weakness in an individual in a non-aggressive and objective way.

You may need to invest in external help to gain this detailed, key information to help with identifying, as well as evaluating conscious and unconscious thinking. What type will the individual revert to when under pressure or when working to a deadline?

More importantly, how will they react when influencing others to deliver a project? The information gained from this exercise can be invaluable in helping to really know what you need to watch out for and work on with your new employee- the chances of finding the perfect 360 degree fit will almost certainly never happen.

There is always something to work on with everyone but being totally informed and aware of the absolute facts of the individual’s character and how they are hard wired in advance of their selection can be crucial.

6. Winning teams do their homework It goes without saying to check references; both verbally and in written form. Also, provide an opportunity for the successful employee to socialise with the existing team. Inviting them to an out of work gathering can really enable you to see how they interact with people informally. It’s amazing how quickly people relax and show their real character away from the formal interview process and its key you see this for yourself.

7. The journey of a thousand miles starts with a first step Finally, give some real thought and preparation to the chosen individual’s first few months. It’s essential that that your new recruit settles quickly once selected and started.

Ensure a clear role so the individual knows exactly what they’re expected to achieve for the business, and factor in time for them to get to know systems and processes as well as the individual people they will be managing and have influence over. Feeling valued, appreciated and allowing an opportunity to give and receive feedback is invaluable for both parties.