Recently I happened to attend a conference where one of the topics debated was “The role of professionals in family run business”. The speakers included select business leaders of ‘Family run’ companies. As expected most of them were first generation businessmen who through hard work and industry had set up and grown their companies to their present position, each one a fairly well established set up in my city. While they made a strong case study of how to start and build a business, it was while explaining the topic and how they saw the role of “Professionals” in their organization that most stumbled. Random high sounding jargons like “marry traditional values to modern trade practices”, “making the Professional a part of the family”, “inculcate a sense of belonging to the professional” etc were spouted. On prodding what these actually meant and how one or they did all the above drew further incoherent bilge. As an ‘expert’ on the subject, I take it upon me to elucidate on this, a subject which will fill a fairly large portion of my autobiography as and when it is written.
What I could make out of the industry leaders in the conference was most that of them thought ‘Professional’ means a suited-booted, laptop lugging, English Medium Type who swore by XL spread sheets and power point presentations! Knowing that I have been blessed with readers who are much more well versed with the term, I refrain from giving my ‘dose’ of gyaan on the same. (Should you still feel lost; a cursory glance into Oxford Dictionary should suffice. Welcome!) If the speakers were confused on the definition of professionals, the audience a few exceptions apart (Ahem! Ahem!!) were confused on what is ‘Family run business’. This needs an explanation as I don’t think Oxford or any other dictionary is capable of getting to the soul of this definition.
Firstly, family run businesses are not necessarily a small mom-n-pop businesses as the word may fool you into believing. Scale is immaterial when it comes to family run businesses. Secondly, most businesses world over are family run businesses. You find my statements incredible? Here you go……Who do you think has succeeded Rupert Murdoch’s Media empire? James Murdoch! Closer home after Ratan Tata who? Cyrus Pallonji Mistry. Mistry is no Tata you say? Well Mistry is family, extended one through marriage! (Noel Tata lurks in the background) Birlaji’s successors are who else but Birlajis. Then there is one of the oldest family run enterprises in the country which goes by the name of the Indian National Congress!
|Tataji & Birlaji|
As someone who has worked all his life in family run companies the above mentioned conference was of zilch value to me as it gave me no clue on what the ‘family’ expects from a ‘professional’ that I didn’t know already. I venture into sharing some guru-mantra instead on what ‘professionals’ should expect in a ‘family run business’, a sort of a quickie, self-help ideas to bear in mind while on work.
Please expect and be prepared for a sugar coated variant of feudalism if you want to succeed in such organizations. A little bit of tact and some amount of apple-polishing should be ideal recipe for success. If you agree with “Boss is right” then you should not have any problem with “Lalaji is right” either!
Whatever your qualification or your experience in the business of your organization, please remember you can only make suggestions and not give decisions. That is the exclusive preserve of the ‘Sethji’. The more your suggestions are accepted and you get a go ahead for implementation the better is the likelihood of your Diwali ‘packet’ becoming fatter!
Grow a thick hide! Remember to address the gen-next as ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’ however dumb, dumber or dumbest they may be. Or even if they are old enough to just about be dating you son or grandson.
Tone down your ambitions. Remember it is always the Yuvraj who succeeds the Maharaj and never the Mantri. And there is no guarantee of Mantri’s progeny succeeding the Mantri either!
Never swallow the bluff of your fancy sounding designation like Business Head or CEO on the business card. You will always be way below in the hierarchy. You will most definitely follow the Lalaji, Lalaji Junior, the family Munshiji and the Lalaji’s driver in the ladder.
If all this sounds scary, relax! Be pragmatic. If there is no parambarai sotthu or zamindari to fall back upon, just follow the herd. After all money in the bank has never hurt anyone that I know of! Remember there is always a lottery waiting to fall into your lap should the Lalaji’s daughter fall for you!
P.S.: I once worked for a Lalaji whose definition of ‘Vision’ was eye sight! I am sure you are better off!
Lalaji/Sethji : Owner of the business
Munshiji: Family accountant.
Parambarai Sotthu: Ancestral property
Zamindari : Fiefdom.