Henry Hutcheson is a nationally recognized author and thought-leader on family business topics. Some of the publications he has written for or is under contract to write for include:
- The News & Observer newspaper
- Charlotte Observer
- Nursery Retailer Magazine
- Family Business Magazine
- NC Construction News
Henry is the Family Business correspondent for the News & Observer newspaper, a McClatchy Company, in Raleigh, North Carolina. The readership of the paper covers the entire eastern half of North Carolina.Â A few topics include:
- Bringing in the Next Generation
- Next Steps: Current Generation
- Taxes and the Family Business
- Women in the Family Business
- Emotional Intelligence
- Family Meetings
- Selling the Family Business
- Family Business Mentoring
- High Performing Family Businesses
Henry Hutcheson is the family business columnist for Nursery Retailer Magazine, a nation-wide publication reaching small, medium, and large size businesses catering to the $27 Billion industry. A full list of articles will be posted soon.
Example Article: How To Take Over The Family Business
Show Them You Are Ready to LeadÂ From: Garden Chic, IGC Show Issue, 2012
Start Small & On the Right Foot
The best approach to developing any relationship is to feel each other out. Carve out a bite-sized portion of responsibility for a project or a less critical function, and have mom or dad inform the customer or supplier that you will be handling this area. This enables the customer or supplier to feel out your “performance quality” without assuming all the risk. It’s important to avoid communicating this change in the relationship yourself – it would convey the customer’s or supplier’s relationship with the current ownership is not important enough to warrant a formal handoff. As the next generation, you would also run the risk of appearing arrogant and overconfident by announcing your own takeover.
The customer or supplier doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. You may be good at what you do, but the road is littered with people who were good yet couldn’t connect with people. Being good at what you do is not enough to develop a strong relationship with customers and suppliers. It’s more important to prove, establish and develop a reputation for how you work – that you’re reliable, trustworthy, dependable, communicative and caring. The critical thing to remember is that you only get one chance at a first impression. If you can win over your customers and suppliers by over-delivering on small projects, they will be comfortable when you move to bigger responsibilities, and will cut you slack if something happens to go wrong because you’ve already built some trust.
Prove It to Them
While there needs to be a transition period where your parents can introduce you as taking over some responsibilities, you certainly don’t want to seem like dad’s sidekick. Prove that you have the capacity to stand on your own two feet and think for yourself. Set up one-on-one meetings with customers and suppliers to discuss topics relevant to them. The seriousness of the work is not as important as demonstrating that you’re not just an extension of your parents and operate well independently.
Along similar lines, plan on attending some industry conferences solo. Look for opportunities to write published articles on industry topics, and speak to or teach groups. Just getting involved in industry-related initiatives demonstrates you’re not a one-trick pony. It also gains you exposure.
Perhaps the most important aspect of helping your customers and suppliers see you as the future leader is to reach out to them directly. For a supplier, it can be as simple as taking the initiative to call and invite them to lunch or coffee to discuss ways to work more closely. For customers, staff the front door and greet them as they walk in – introduce yourself and ask if you can help. It’s a tried-and-true method of establishing a reputation as someone who cares. You could ask customers how you can be a better provider for them. Sure, there are a myriad of projects to be worked on, personnel issues to address and crises to avert, but carving out a few days to meet customers will be worth the results. You can’t meet and help everyone, but it has a meaningful impact on those you touch, and they’ll spread the word.
Finally, as you set out to make your own mark as the future leader of the garden center, remember one thing: While your parents may have a particular style that engendered them to their customers and suppliers, no one expects or wants you to be their clone. Yes, everyone wants reliability and quality products and service, but they also want trust and sincerity. Be yourself, have your own style and double-down on your own strengths. This is the best way to advertise to your customers and suppliers that there’s a new leader on the way.
Double-down on your strengths to succeed
As you set out to make your own mark as the future leader of the garden center, remember one thing: While your parents may have a particular style that engendered them to their customers and suppliers, no one expects or wants you to be their clone. Yes, everyone wants reliability and quality products and service, but they also want trust and sincerity. Be yourself, have your own style and double-down on your own strengths.