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Working as an employee in a family business that your dad owns (Part 2)

By Christian Alary / Unison Workplace Strategies

 

A few months ago, I wrote my first blog article on my experience with succession in a family business. Although there have been no major changes since then, I wanted to share my observations and journey with you throughout this experience.

I would like to emphasize that it is somewhat uncomfortable to speak about myself as well, but my goal is to help others by sharing my personal experience.

 
 

Experience of other companies

For starters, one thing that has happened since I began sharing my experience is that I have had the opportunity to discuss succession with other entrepreneurs who have gone through the process. Two specific messages are reiterated again and again:

Importance of communication

I think that this is something we do pretty well at Unison, but there is always room for improvement. We have monthly meetings with the whole team, but some of my meetings in particular focus on succession.

To separate work and family life

For example, I had to start calling Marc-André by his name and not “Dad.” It was a little strange at first. In the workplace, it’s not a problem, but with family it is proving to be a little more difficult. It is a subject that comes up often.

 
 

Participating in multiple company functions is part of the plan

At work, I started to involve myself a little more in certain company functions, including marketing, to free up some time for Marc-André.

I am not entirely responsible for marketing since we have a marketing coordinator. We’ve also added an intern from the Université de Moncton as a digital marketing assistant to help us with certain marketing campaigns.

 

On my end, I help coordinate certain marketing projects and I provide support to the marketing coordinator and digital marketing assistant, including approvals of ideas, problems, or content.

When certain decisions need to be made, I try to involve the team by asking them for their opinions. I also have to trust them since they know more about marketing than I do.

 
 

My future vision for the family business

Our discussions on the succession plan

Regarding succession, as mentioned earlier, we have monthly one-on-one meetings. One of the topics we are discussing is the succession plan. During our last meeting we discussed my vision of Unison for the future. I am sharing the information that follows to give you some context.

The plan is to buy the company within the next few years (with certain conditions). As is the case for most people in my position, it possible to get financing to purchase a business, but most likely Marc-André will finance part of the purchase (when the time comes).

So for Marc-André, financing the sale is a risk. In addition, he has his own vision for Unison, so we need to determine how we can minimize the risks while ensuring that we respect his vision, as well as my own. You need to have a plan—one that starts a few years before the transaction and ends a few years after.

For us, the first step was simply that I needed to gain experience outside the company, which is why I went to work in manufacturing for three years before coming back to Unison in January 2021

After this, I need to work as a project leader for a certain amount of time. As I continue to get experience, I will be sharing my progression, challenges, changes in our succession plan, and any other information that may be of value to my readers.

Some of you may be wondering why Marc-André should take my vision into account since it is his company. Ultimately, it is to mitigate his risk.

Understanding my vision allows us to prepare the company operationally, and to build a team that complements me, is committed to me, and gives me peace of mind that.

When the day comes, I will have a strong and prosperous business that is not dependent on its former owner.

If you have any comments, information or experience to share, please feel free to send them my way.

That’s all for now. Thank you!