“Your role is transient.”
By Kristine van der Pas-Norenius
Who: Julie Tubman, President/CEO Tubman Funeral Homes
Julie is the third generation owner of Tubman Funeral Homes and was in the process of purchasing the business from her father, in her late 20’s, when he passed away. Her business acumen, and community involvement have been recognized with numerous awards including Ottawa Chamber of Commerce Person of the Year 2006.
My 30 minute time slot with Julie hinted that this well-regarded businesswoman wasn’t going to mince words. I was partially right. She gets to the point quickly, has excellent wisdom to impart based on her nearly 40 years in business, and yet shares in a genuine and thoughtful manner.
Q: What ONE thing in your mind is critical for the success of a family business?
A: “There is no ‘one’ thing.”
“Flexibility, open-mind, understanding your role is transient, setting up the next generation for success, and getting out of the way when its time” are all critical for a successful family business explains Julie. It is a common scenario in family businesses where the older generation resists relinquishing control or adapting to change.
You can’t keep the controls
What strikes me is the notion that your role is transient. Imagine how differently you would plan for your business if you understood, from day one, that your role really is a temporary position! Recognizing from the onset that you can’t keep the controls allows you to create a progressive family business structure that encourages career development, succession planning and growth.
Q: What one thing would you recommend a family do before it considers becoming a ‘family’ business?
A: “Do you respect each other enough to work together for the next 5, 10, 40 years?”
Julie correctly points out that in most cases families don’t plan to start a ‘family’ business. They typically evolve into a family business as family members ‘help out’ with certain tasks in the beginning. Before asking a family member to contribute to the business, determine if there is enough respect for each other to overcome the inevitable difference of opinions. Can you respect each other no matter how different their viewpoint and still enjoy each other’s company at the family reunion?
Q: What one thing would you or your family do differently in your family business if you could?
A: “Have a mentor or executive coach.”
Julie’s father was her mentor and supported her in the male-dominated field when she entered in the 70’s. She was just 30 when she purchased the business after her father passed. “I would have appreciated having a mentor to discuss business with.” Executive coaches didn’t exist back then, but Julie finds them a valuable resource now. In fact, many of her staff also benefit from coaching services.
A diversified P.A.G is a great help
Julie has been part of her CAFE Personal Advisory Group (PAG) for 27 years. “We’ve been through divorce, death, bankruptcy and family business succession together” Julie shares. “Diversity is important in a PAG”. Gaining perspective from young and old, successor and founder and different backgrounds gives you a well-rounded sounding board and support group. I concur wholeheartedly having found my PAG an invaluable companion through my own family business journey.
Thank you Julie for your wise words – not minced at all!