In Chile, 80% of the companies are family-owned, a scenario that presents several administrative and management shortcomings, which can be addressed by creating corporate structures that allow the business to be projected over time.
In general terms, a “family-managed company” is one in which at least 50% of the senior executives are from the same family group. INE data indicate that today there are around 750,000 companies in Chile, and of these, according to studies by the Business School of the Universidad de los Andes, around 80% are family businesses.
This is not minor if we take into account that, at market level, it is considered that a company loses value if more than two thirds of the executives are family members -mainly because of the potential for conflict- and that, according to the Association of Family Businesses (AEF), 85% of these companies do not survive to the third generation, with an average duration of 8 years of existence.
ROLE CROSSOVER AND LACK OF MEASUREMENT
“These companies face, first, a growth crisis, and then a management crisis”, this would be generated, among other reasons, by administrative failures of managers and/or owners, invasion of roles or members unsuitable for the positions, lack of protocols, irregular financial and communicational flows.
In this scenario, one of the greatest shortcomings may come from the leader, who, bypassing middle management, intervenes in the areas of competence of other members. “This is harmful, because it avoids the structure of people through which you could transfer decisions, and at the same time, measure their efficiency”, it also happens that the founder is the one who “has the business in his head”, not having created a system to transfer that knowledge, a scenario that can complicate the family succession of the business.
Another present problem is related to people in positions merely because of family connection, instead of knowledge, “who try to make up for what they don’t know, with authority; thus, those who really know see that there is no merit in the processes”, adds the engineer. Unfortunately, in these situations, there is often no intervention, either for emotional reasons or because of a lack of effective measurement of the work to support a removal.
In terms of financial diagnostics, he warns that audits often uncover what he calls “Bowling Pin Syndrome”, a common phenomenon characterized by unclear accounting information and/or erratic cash flows, something that usually goes unnoticed “because the owner feels that the business has been doing well”, but which may be generating large losses.
BUSINESS BLINDAGE or ORGANIZATIONAL MANAGEMENT
At the corporate level, the professionalization of an organization is not merely the academic improvement of its members: it is to make it visible, optimize it and standardize its operation through a clear and assessable corporate structure, thus generating a “shield”,
to consolidate its position in the market as well as to face its ups and downs. Something that can be complex to achieve in a space where things have often been put together on the fly.
This requires a company accompaniment – developed by external advisors – characterized, in the first instance, by the creation of management committees, which will define rules, procedures, roles and authorities, and regularize the provision of information for decision making. “The objectives must be clear, nothing can be left to interpretation,” he says, adding that an alignment of senior management, with commitment and a strategic outlook, is fundamental to the success of this.
“In Chile, it usually happens that when companies go bankrupt, especially medium-sized ones, they do so because of cash flow problems”, stressing that a restructuring of the financial administration may be required, consciously analyzing the suitability of the roles, not only in this area, but at a general level, since “the neural network of the company is sometimes different from the network of authority and you have to be able to identify who is who, to make the most of human capital and see where the elements that give meaning to the process are”.
In this sense, it is vital to measure the performance of each of the parts of the gearbox. “Progressively each member should be advised that they will begin to be evaluated. Methods and goals are established, and the person will have to start performing. If he or she doesn’t, there is an objective argument for moving him or her; in addition, a signal of transparency will be given to the rest of the organization.”
However, it is asserted that success in the process stems from the ability to visualize the value of the process. “There are people whose business is so good, that they won’t make the effort to become more efficient, because they like the familiar. And no matter how much they are told that such a person is a ‘disaster,’ they won’t take him out.”
It should be clear that the experiences of professionalization counseling vary from case to case, and according to the specific needs, although all of them require long-term and, in the first stage, intangible work. Depending on the organization of the company, after approximately 6 to 18 months, the necessary radical changes begin to be identified: who is really useful, who has potential, as well as who and what no longer worked”. However, contrary to what one might think, in the expert’s opinion, these are very simple stages that begin with the loyalty of the information. “When you have the appropriate information, you start with one area, normally administration and finance, which is the one that summarizes everything, then you combine it with the commercial area, with the logistics area, and in the end you make the whole unit work together in a great delivery of regular and stable information. And with that you can make key decisions to give projection to the company”.