One Thing…Family Business Advice from Matthew Carr of Carr Insurance

August 12, 2015

“Lay Out the Path to Partnership”

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Matthew Carr of Carr & Company Insurance Brokers

Who:  Matthew Carr, President and COO, Carr & Company Insurance Brokers Ltd, Ottawa

Matt is the third generation leader of this established insurance firm in Ottawa and works with his mother and younger brother.  Matt took over the operations of the company upon the untimely death of his father.

Q:  What one thing should a family do before transferring ownership to the next family members?

A:  “Lay out the path to partnership.”

As a potential successor, understand what you have to achieve through pre-set and fair parameters.  “It is important to remove the sense of entitlement than can creep into the younger generations of the family” emphasizes Matt.  By having a ‘path to partnership’ each family member knows what is expected of him or her. It is clear what they must accomplish to be considered for partnership in the business.  Specific experience, education, certifications and demonstrated code of conduct can all be elements of the path to ownership.

Q:  What one thing should a family do to manage conflict within a business?

A:  “Treat business as business and family as family.”

“Start by having clear guidelines and guiding principles for the business and follow these”, Matt advises.  Establishing a shared vision and business values and having clear roles, responsibilities, duties and business protocols can definitely reduce misunderstandings and conflict at the office.

“Any conversations about the business should be on business time.”

Separating work and family conversations helps reduce inappropriate family interference in business affairs and allows for enjoyable family time together.   At work, Matt is the ‘Prez’ but at home he is the brother and the son.  Keeping business-related discussions at the office helps separate family and business issues.

Q: What one thing would you or your family do differently in your family business if you could?

A:  “Establish a formalized succession plan before you need it.”

Matt was working on an informal succession plan with his father, an apprenticeship so to speak.  However, there was nothing in writing and no legal documents to carry this through after the passing of his father.  It caused additional difficulties on top of coping with the loss of his Dad. “It’s up to the second generation to ensure the third generation is ready to go” states Matt.

“Have an exit strategy.”

Often at start-up or when you become the new boss, your business plan is focused on growing the business.  You are full of big dreams and ambitions.  But what would happen to these goals if you couldn’t execute them?  How do you ensure the smooth running of the business upon you departure?  Plan your exit strategy before you start.

Thank you Matt for your insights and straight forward advice.

About the author: Kristine van der Pas-Norenius is a family business member of the Ottawa Chapter of CAFE Canada and business consultant of 4Optimus Inc., the second family business she and her husband own and operate.

About the author: Kristine van der Pas-Norenius is a family business member of the Ottawa Chapter of CAFE Canada and business consultant of 4Optimus Inc., the second family business she and her husband own and operate.