“Remember to have fun.”
By Kristine van der Pas-Norenius
Get the straight goods from CAFE family business members as they answer “one thing” questions about developing a successful family business and family.
Who: Mitch Bouchard, Secretary/Treasurer General Bearing Service Inc.
Mitch, a mechanical engineer, is a third generation leader of the family business alongside his father and brother. He is accelerating business growth while navigating the ups and downs of family business succession using CAFE resources.
I caught Mitch somewhere between Montreal and Renfrew on a Friday afternoon, hands free of course and in between pivotal meetings and a call to his brother. Business is growing fast and Mitch is a busy man, so I was a bit surprised by his answer to my first question.
Q: What ONE thing in your mind is critical for the success of a family business?
A: “Having fun.”
“We have to put things in perspective” says Mitch. We may think we are like a big firm on Wall St. with all the stress and pressure, but in reality we are in control of our own business and if we really wanted to, “we could go home and take a nap”. Not that we do, but we could.
If you’re not having fun, why are you doing this?
You are working with family, for your family’s livelihood and legacy. You are in it for the long term, so you should enjoy yourself too explains Mitch. Ensure you and your family are having fun – “it helps your family gel.”
Q: What one thing would you recommend a family do before transferring ownership to the next family members?
A: “There is no one thing, there’s a process you need to go through.”
“It’s not like a box that you hand from one generation to the next” Mitch shares. There is a step-by step process. First, identify the need, then the value of the business, then the timeline and then the mechanism including how to handle the tax implications. I would add another step to the process – managing the change.
Manage the change
The new owners are eager to take control, but the ‘sellers’ are likely going through something of a grieving process. Both parties are experiencing significant life changes and managing the exit as well as the new ownership is key to a smooth transition. “We had to figure out what Dad did NOT want us to do with the business” shares Mitch.
Q: What one thing should a family do to manage conflict within the business?
A: “Have an impartial mediator.”
Often we are afraid to air our dirty laundry, but every family business has dirty laundry explains Mitch. Once you recognize this, you are less hesitant to share with a third party. Having a sounding board like a CAFE PAG or outside professional is helpful in keeping a grounded perspective and making professional, not emotional decisions. Indeed this is a common observation through all my family business interviews. Mitch says it best when describing your typical family business:
“The closet is a mess, but your house looks good.”
Thank you Mitch for sharing your fun perspective on family business wherever you are right now!