The Outsiders Part 2

Hey, it’s Laura stepping in for Brent this week…

The Outsiders
I’m the “outsider” of Perpetual Development. What I mean is, I’m not related to Brent in any way, shape, or form. I am the only non-family member working for the business. When Brent and I talked about this blog, he challenged me on using this term, concerned that it may have a negative connotation. But the truth is, no matter how long I work for Brent and no matter how close I become to his family, we will never truly be “family” and that is a boundary that is important for me to respect and understand. And, I’m okay with being the “outsider”.

Last year, I wrote The Outsiders: How Non-Family Members Feel Interviewing for Your Business. This year, I’m taking a fresh approach and discussing what it’s like to be an “outsider” WORKING in your family business…

Just like Brent, Trudy and Alyssa talked last week about the unique dynamics of working together as a family, there are unique dynamics that come when working FOR a family.

Two Words
If I could only use two words to describe working in a family business as a non-family member,  I would choose “with” and “balance”.

With
Working in a family business is really about working with a family. It’s about getting aligned or getting out. Yes, it’s true, if you can’t align yourself with the goals, mission, and vision of the family business, it’s probably best you leave. It’s only when these elements align that you can be mutually successful and satisfied.

Brent did a great job of facilitating “The With” when I was hired. He created opportunities for me to get to know Alyssa and Trudy directly so that I could work with them successfully. He also spent a good deal of time with me, explaining what he saw for the company over the next 10 years. Any time something happens or changes within the business Brent takes the time to communicate with me directly regarding it. I always feel as though we are on the same page and that I’m aligned not only with the company but also with the family that makes up the company.

Balance
Working with a family business requires balance.

Some days you are part of the family and some days you need to separate yourself and recognize that you’re only an employee, and that needs to be okay. In fact, I like to embrace the fact that I’m an outsider. I appreciate the fact that Brent, Trudy, and Alyssa only know what I share with them and that there aspects of my personal life that I don’t have to bring to work. I like that my unique experiences help bring different perspectives to the table.

Outsiders have the distinct opportunity to play the role of the scale, or balance, in the office. We’re the ones who can step in and say, “Are you looking at that person as your family member or your colleague, and how should you be looking at them in regard to the situation?” As the “outsider” it is easy to identify when someone is thinking about someone as simply their family member rather than as a skilled professional, and you must help to bring that awareness. You can be the individual who points out when someone is looking at their family members as their mom/dad/sister/brother/son/daughter/etcetera, rather than as someone they respect in their role.

With Balance
When you walk with the family in balance you will find that the family, the business, and you are successful. This takes time. When I started working at Perpetual Development the “with” part happened quickly; I was easily aligned with their vision for the company, but the “balance” part took longer. I had to learn to be comfortable being the “outsider” while still voicing my suggestions. However, I eventually realized that the way individuals make themselves successful within a family business is no different than in any other business… you simply set a goal and work to achieve it. Once I realized what I wanted my role to look like within Perpetual Development, and aligned that with what Brent wanted for the role, I found it easier to have a voice and make significant contributions.

One of the things that make family businesses so effective is that the family members feel comfortable putting forth their unique ideas and perspectives… why wouldn’t you help contribute in this way and start figuring out where you fit in?

The Successful Outsider
A successful outsider is developed through communication and coaching from the leader of the family business, in my case, Brent. He continuously updates me on the business and communicates how my role contributes to the success of the business differently and with crossover from the family members. I never feel threatened by the fact that I am not family.

If you are a family business owner or leader and have “outsiders” working for you, the most important thing I can encourage you to do from the outsider perspective is to communicate. I know it sounds cliche, but it’s Brent’s level of communication and openness to my questions that has helped me feel confident in my role, my value, and my voice within the company.


Is Etiquette Irrelevant?

It’s Laura here, stepping in for Brent this week.

So, you’re invited to a formal business dinner, but do you know the proper etiquette? Allow me to help…

Do: Use the envelope as a cue to who is invited.
Don’t: Assume you may bring a guest.

I’ve been surprised how many people weren’t taught this, but you can totally, and
should, use the envelope of an invitation to determine who is invited. For example:

  1. Mr. John Smith = Only John Smith is invited.
  2. Mr. John Smith and Guest = John may bring a guest.
  3. Mr. and Mrs. Bob Jones = Bob and his wife are invited.
  4. The Jones Family/ Mr. and Mrs. Bob Jones and Family = The entire Jones family is invited.
  5. Mr. and Mrs. Bob Jones, Miss Emily Jones, and Master David Jones = Bob, his wife, Emily and David are invited, but their two-year-old is not.

If you’re invited via email it should include details regarding guests. If it does not, reach out to your employer’s assistant for guidance. NEVER reach out to the individual(s) hosting you to pose this question; they are likely paying for you to attend. By asking you are putting them under pressure to allow you to bring a guest.

Do: Wear the provided name tag.
Don’t: Place it in an awkward position.

Always wear your name tag at the top of your chest, near your right shoulder and provide your full name as you introduce yourself. As you reach out to shake hands, your right shoulder will come forward, emphasizing your name tag. The person on the receiving end of your handshake will both see and hear your name simultaneously, increasing the likelihood for them to remember it.

Do: Find your table promptly.
Don’t: Just sit anywhere.

You should remain standing until the guest of honor arrives and invites you to be seated. If place cards have not been set, the guest of honor will take the seat with the best view, and if they’ve brought a guest, that individual will sit to their left. The guest of honor may instruct everyone where to sit, but if not, take any seat, ensuring that those attending together are not separated. In business dining it is not necessary to pull out the seat for a woman unless she is your guest.

Do: Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the table setting.
Don’t: Accidentally use someone else’s glass or utensils.

Your first action once seated should be placing your napkin on your lap. Fold your napkin in half diagonally, forming a triangle. Place the fold closest to your navel and the open ends facing your knees.

Have you ever wondered which glass is yours? Press your pointer finger against the pad of your thumb on the same hand. Hold your other fingers up in the air. Your left hand will create a “b” and your right hand will create a “d”. Your bread is on the left and your drink is on the right.


Image Source

Utensils are placed in the order of use from the outside in. The smaller fork is for a salad or appetizer and the larger fork is for dinner. A dessert spoon and fork may appear above your plate.

Do: Help pass the meal.
Don’t: Reach across the table.

You will always be served on your left and should pass dishes to your right. If needed, hold the dish for the person to your right who serves himself or herself, then holds the platter for the person to his/her right. When the table host or the guest of honor lifts his/her fork you may begin eating.

Never reach across the table to grab something. Rather, ask for the item to be passed in your direction. Never ask the server to bring you something that isn’t presented at the table - the only exceptions being salt and pepper.

If you must take a break for any reason, rest your knife across the top of your plate and the fork at the 3:00 position. To signal you are finished, place utensils at the 4:20 clock position.

Do: Enjoy an alcoholic beverage with dinner (obvious exceptions occur).
Don’t: Have more than one drink at a business function.

While two plus glasses of wine may sound great, while attending business functions it is only acceptable to consume one drink of alcohol.

Do: Place your napkin over your arm or on the edge of the table if you must leave your seat.
Don’t: Place your napkin on your seat.

If the dessert is buffet style, place your napkin over your arm as you move through the line. If you have to leave the table during dinner for any reason, place your napkin towards the edge of the table to the left of you plate. You will likely find that it has been replaced with a clean napkin when you return. If you drop your napkin at any point during the meal, ask the server to bring you a new one.

Keep the following in mind while enjoying the meal:

  • Keep eye contact with whoever is speaking. The only exception is when you take a sip of your drink. Break eye contact while you take the sip and return eye contact as you set the glass back down.
  • Never make a negative comment about the meal.
  • Always break bread with your fingers and never butter the entire roll in advance. Pull off a small piece, butter that piece, and enjoy it. Repeat.
  • If you spill, neatly pick up or clean up as much as you can. Immediately apologize to the others at the table. Discreetly signal the server who will assist you with cleaning up.
  • If you take a bite of food that too hot or spoiled, discreetly return the food to your fork or spoon and put it on the edge of your plate.
  • If you cough or sneeze during the meal, cover your mouth and nose with your napkin (if you do not have a handkerchief available). Never blow your nose at the table, if you need to, excuse yourself to the restroom.

Do: Thank the host and whomever invited you.
Don’t: Forget to write a note.

At the end of the event, wait for the guest of honor or host to rise. Be certain to push your chair back under the table. Thank whomever invited you as well as the host.

You should also send a thank you note to whomever invited you. Never send a thank you note with “thank you” written on the outside; there is no reason for the recipient to read the inside.  Keep the note brief and to the point, but don’t send a card with a printed message and just sign your name. Take the time to personalize the note and mention specifically why you are thanking the individual.

Is etiquette irrelevant? I would argue that it is not. Etiquette is a clear set of guidelines that will help you navigate all situations with taste and class.

P.S. Do you have an etiquette tip worth sharing? Post it to the comments!


My Desk Is In Brent's Office

Hi, it’s Laura this week.

I’ve now been working for PDI for six months. During that time I’ve come to learn that Brent is uniquely innovative in his preventative methods and resolutions to common workplace issues, particularly in family business, but not necessarily limited to. He practices the advice he gives to others in our own office and indicated that right off the bat…

Brent: One last thing, your desk will be in my office. Is that a problem for you?
Me: Umm…

That’s about all the “words” I could formulate when Brent threw this information my way at the end of my interview. “Didn’t he just say that when he is in the office the majority of his time is spent on the phone?” I thought to myself, “How will I get my work done if he’s talking in the background?”

As it turns out, the fact that my desk is in Brent’s office has been immeasurably beneficial and a practice I would encourage anyone with an assistant to try. Here’s why:
(Note: If putting your assistant’s desk in your office is unrealistic for your situation, I’ve included some takeaways to help your assistant become as effective as possible.)

1.     I was quickly able to learn Brent’s style when interacting with clients, which clients he is more formal with, and his “taboo” words. (Did you know Brent despises it when I call him my “boss”? I thought about entitling this article “My Boss Makes Me Sit In His Office” but I like my job too much….)
Takeaway: If your assistant is able to communicate with clients in the same manner that you do, you will feel more comfortable delegating to them. Help them learn your style by copying them on emails, allowing them to listen in on calls, and having them sit-in on meetings.

2.     In what seemed like no time I learned who our clients are. We have multiple clients with the same first name, clients with the same last name but who don’t work at the same company, and clients who are related but don’t work at the same company. It’s confusing to say the least, but sitting in with Brent I quickly established who “belongs” where.
Takeaway: Getting to know clients, vendors, partners, etcetera can be an overwhelming part of the onboarding process. Make it easier for new employees by creating bios or charts showing the companies you interact with and who the key players are.

3.     I receive in-the-moment feedback. I never have to wonder if I did something well or not, Brent tells me immediately because, well, I’m right there!
Takeaway: Feedback is one of the most important things you can offer a new employee. It can be as simple as an email saying “nicely done” or a regularly scheduled meeting to discuss what went well and what could be improved.

4.     There’s no lack of communication. We are able to keep each other constantly updated on the progress of different projects.
Takeaway: Communicate, communicate, communicate.

5.      Working in the same room creates absolute trust in both directions. Brent never has to wonder if I’m doing my work because he is able to see how hard I work. I never have to wonder if my job is secure because I see how much we’re thriving.
Takeaway: Trust is critical in successful working relationships. If it isn’t possible to have your assistant in a shared workspace, think of other ways you might create mutual trust. This may go back to regular meetings that allow your assistant to share their monthly successes. You could complete the trust loop by letting them know when key clients renew their contracts or by sharing success stories.

6.       Collaboration! Brent and I are constantly bouncing ideas back-and-forth. Through this method we have come up with ideas we may have not reached independently.
Takeaway: As an assistant I am constantly searching for ways to add value to the company; collaborating with Brent has been one way for me to accomplish this. Whenever we take the time to collaborate it seems as though our original idea comes out stronger, making it better for the clients and for the company.

Though it may seem strange, I am so grateful my desk is in Brent’s office. It has reduced the learning curve that comes with being the “newbie” and now, after six months of being here, I feel like I have worked here for years. If you have an assistant, or any employee who must be keyed in on the details of your business, take the initial steps to set them up for long term success. For some of you this may mean placing an assistant’s or other key player’s desk in your office, for others this will mean scheduling regular meetings.

Additionally, I encourage you to trust whatever conventional or unconventional method Brent suggests for addressing, preventing or resolving the strategy, problem or challenge you are confronting.I guarantee you he has thought it through and has a strategic reasoning for his suggestion.

P.S. I'd love to hear from you in the comments.


The Outsiders: How Non-Family Members Feel Interviewing for Your Family Business

It’s Laura contributing to Thoughtwave this week. I am the newest member of the Perpetual Development Team.

I stepped out of my truck.
Suite #112… this is it.
I made certain my shirt was tucked in. I checked my makeup and teeth in the side view mirror.
You’ve got this. You have the skills. You have the experience within a family business. Show them your personality.
I rang the bell.

According to Grand Valley State University, there are 5.5 million family businesses in America today, contributing 57% of the GDP and employing 63% of the workforce. Family businesses are responsible for 78% of new job creation.

If you’re reading Thoughtwave, chances are you own or work within a family business. If you’re involved in any part of the hiring process, you may believe your interviewees feel no different than those interviewing for publicly-owned organizations, but I’ve been through the process twice and can tell you it IS different.

I had been working for a family business for almost two years, but it was time for my boss to retire and business in the office was going to be slowing drastically. I decided to be proactive and search for another opportunity. When I found the job listing for Perpetual Development and noticed that they are not only family-owned but work with such businesses, I knew I needed to apply.

Your interviewees may be contemplating the best way to prepare for an interview with a family-owned business. As I prepared, I felt some relief in the fact that I had already worked for one. Think about it… what’s more valuable than education? Experience!

We’ll call my prior employer Smith Family Enterprises (SME). My experiences at SME were wonderful, but they came with a learning curve. At SME I was surprised how quickly I was exposed to the complexities of family business. Two family members who would soon be making the decisions didn’t always agree. One leader wanted to put in more hours; his wife wanted him home more. One employee wanted to feel like part of the family, but this was business.

Your candidates are going to be wondering how being an outsider who must be involved with the dynamics of a family will affect their position.

Going into my interview with Perpetual Development I was eager to learn more about the Patmos family, their values, and how the family relationships would play into my day-to-day.

Here are a few things your interviewee may be thinking about as they prepare for an interview with your family business:

How will I showcase that I am skilled enough to navigate the waters and manage relationships?
Your candidate may come prepared with examples of prior experiences managing delicate relationships. They will feel as though they need to show that although they are not a member of the family, they can work with the family. Be aware that they may be hesitant to give away specifics or anything too personal. By respecting the privacy of prior employers and coworkers, they’ll demonstrate the same respect they’ll give your family.

When I interviewed with Brent I gave examples by saying things like “A certain family member wanted me to use my time to BLANK, while another family member wanted me to use my time to BLANK. I managed this by BLANK.” I was able to validate my experience in family business without disrespecting my prior employer.

What is the culture?
Well-prepared interviewees will likely arrive knowing as much as possible about your company’s history and culture. They will have reviewed the company’s website and the LinkedIn profiles of its employees. Chances are they’ve Googled your business and read the business’ reviews to see how you handle customer relationships. The fact that your business is family-owned, will create extra pressure to fit into the culture.

While researching Brent and PDI I discovered his book, Beyond the Name. You can bet I read as much of it as possible prior to my interview. I am thankful I did as his book made it clear that his business WILL be part of his legacy. I knew he would be looking for someone who could emulate the culture he worked hard to create. I arrived feeling as though I already knew quite a bit about how he viewed business and how he might operate his own.

What skills do the family members not possess?
Your interviewee will likely be wondering why you elected to hire someone outside of the family for this particular position. If appropriate, disclose that information to them and allow them to highlight why choosing them makes sense.

My main interview for Perpetual Development was with Brent and Trudy. I was welcomed to the building by Marisah, a future family relative. They explained how their children contributed to the business. While they absolutely made me feel welcome, I knew that I was the “outsider” and would have to showcase skills that none of them currently possessed. During the interview, I discovered that Brent and Trudy were considering hosting leadership events but that no one on the team had a background in event planning. I was able to share my experiences as an event planner for a large international organization and the skills that it would bring to not only this area but the general structure and processes within the business.

How does the fact that the business is family-owned effect it?
Your interviewee may use the interview to gauge how the relationships within the family impact the day-to-day operations of the business.

I arrived to my interview with Brent and Trudy with A LOT of questions. Some of those included:

1.    How many family members are involved in the business?
2.    What positions do they hold?
3.    Are they all on site?
4.    How are decisions made?
5.    Who do I report to directly?
6.    Why did you decide to hire someone outside of the family for this position?

I wanted to be as aware as appropriate of the family dynamics, I wanted to be considerate of family dynamics AND I wanted to know how the family dynamics would affect me in the position.

How can I show the family who I truly am?
The job candidate will be looking for opportunities to showcase who they truly are and that they will be a good match for your family and your business.

During my interview, it was important to me to showcase to Brent and Trudy that I am trustworthy. I knew deep down that their entire family was aware that I would, at some level, become involved in the family of family business.

I would encourage you to be open with your interviewee about how the dynamics of your family play into your business. Provide them with opportunities to not only showcase their skills but their personality and how they might “fit in” at the family business. No one wants to feel like the outsider, especially at work, so share with them how they will be incorporated into the family business.

#Thoughtstarters

  1. Have you considered what it feels like for a non-family member to interview for our company?
  2. How do you communicate with candidates about how they will be integrated into the business?
  3. What do you share with interviewees about how being a privately held or family-owned business makes it unique?
P.S. I'd love to hear how you made a job candidate feel welcome at your family business. Leave me a message in the comments!