by Jacqueline Hall on 28 November 2018 4:39pm : 73

Recently my car went through a Ministry of Transport test so it could be proved road-worthy for the next 364 days. This got me thinking about Family Business MOT inspections, and what should be examined and measured to show worthiness for the coming months and years. 

Why do a MOT test?
In the case of my car various factors needed to be examined to ensure its safety, robustness, security and longevity. The aim of the test was to safeguard me - the driver, but also potential passengers, other road users, and pedestrians – all of whom are stakeholders in one way or another.  Doing a business MOT inspection gives insight into the health and outlook of your company. It highlights areas that need attention, enabling you to make current management and future-focussed decisions. 

Motivations, values identification and alignment 
The car’s engine is the environment in which chemical and mechanical energy come together to make it move forward.  Individuals through shared motivation and values contribute their personal capital to your business’s success. Your team aims to make the business a profitable concern that can move forward and provide them with employment.  To secure their own futures they will often match their motivations to yours.  Recognising and understanding the motivations/motivators of the people in your business is important for its success. Disparate motivations existing amongst your leaders will make a unified organisation difficult to achieve.  

Steering and suspension system/wheels were checked to ensure these were operating in harmony.  They ensure stability, efficient control and management of the car, necessary to effectively deal with the bumps on the road.   Organisational motivation and values identification and alignment will help you to maintain business direction and stability in a shifting world.   For your business to be stable and traverse from one stage of growth to the next, motivation and values identification and alignment with well-grounded decision-making is essential. 

Opportunities for individual growth within the business
A leak anywhere in the fuel system would mean failure. Ignition happens when correct ratios of fuel and air meet in the engine.  These represent the effort people put into your business and the opportunities available for personal and career growth. Mixed together correctly they produce synergy.  When opportunities are available to all, staff - especially non-family members – are more likely to stay and help you grow. If there is a sense or evidence of nepotism such staff leave and direct their efforts to your competitors' profitability and expansion.  

Gases produced and emitted via the exhaust system were measured to ensure they were as low as possible. Poorly mixed fuel and air result in engine inefficiency, increasing the amount of noxious gasses produced which are released into the atmosphere. Poor ratios of individuals’ contribution and opportunities for growth in your business will lead to toxicity. Badly executed decisions, poor internal communications, unfair practices and feuds are evidence of toxicity. Toxicity doesn't stay within.  It will leak out into the atmosphere, eventually affecting external perceptions of your business.

Threats to business longevity and security
My vehicle's bodywork, windscreen and wipers, horn, seats/seatbelts, doors, tyres and brakes were examined. They can become worn, corroded and weak reducing the vehicle’s robustness and longevity.  Business effectiveness is threatened by lack of, or obscured vision. If people in your business do not understand or agree with the one vision it can lead to di-vision, tri-vision, or even quadri-vison and exits. Multiple visions will affect your business’s ability to be move forward, be profitable and ensure its success.  

No succession plan or the refusal to set this in place works against family business’s longevity.  Factions develop quietly undercover waiting for an opportune moment or lead to open internecine war and breakaways.  Such situations will result in your business having to deal with the strategies of opponents who will take advantage.

It's often assumed – wrongly - that the harmony that may exist in the business of family is enough.  For the next generation to keep the family business alive they need more than this. The relational glue can lose its strength.  Problems that arise outside the “walls” of the business but through your familial relationship, need to be dealt with in a HOT (honest, open and transparent) and timely manner. 

Your business’s security is threatened when procedures, processes and systems lack robustness. Clear lines of responsibility and accountability are important, especially if family employees have key positions.  Your family employees being treated differently - not always more favourably - than non-family employees will also affect security, especially if those not treated well chose eventually to act on their sense of injustice and hurt.  

What to do
Ongoing maintenance helps to keep the value of the vehicle and ensures that problems are dealt with early.  Whether your business is family run or not consider the following questions:

  1. When was the last time your company went through a Business MOT test?  
  2. If it 'PASSED' then, were there 'ADVISORY' notices on it? What are you doing/have you done about highlighted issues to stop them becoming worse? 
  3. If your business’s MOT test was done today, how sure are you that the certificate would not indicate 'FAIL'?  

Share this article with the decision-makers in your family businesses or others you know. Encourage them to have a Family Business MOT Diagnostic meeting with me.