By Kevin Smith
What do family businesses need to know as the founding generation retires and the next generation takes the wheel?
Two weeks ago I joined Ray Belanger, owner of Bay Copy and Leo Vercollone, president of VERC Enterprises, to talk about this very subject in a seminar titled Succeeding at Succession: a Generational Look at Business in Rockland, Mass.
The four elements I highlight below are critical to how Best of Care is successfully passing the leadership torch, while continually learning, adapting and expanding the ways we serve our home care clients.
Have a vision. In early 2013, I gave a talk during the New England Home Care Conference about the market and regulatory dynamics that will, over the next five years, make or break home care agencies. I also talked about how Best of Care is actively addressing these challenges. During that conference, my father Stephen Smith (founder of Best of Care) and I made it clear that Best of Care was looking to acquire other agencies and expand our geographic footprint. The message we delivered together confirmed for the conference’s attendees that Best of Care would continue to dynamically grow after my father retires. It also led to our acquisition of Boston-based Independence Health Care in August 2013, and our acquisition of Westwood-based Access Home Care in 2014.
Innovate. Stephen talks about how I reenergized and reinvigorated his approach to work when I came on board. I came into the business with a fresh perspective in that I did not know much about the industry or the agency. As a result, Stephen and I were able to begin developing some creative ideas about how we could grow our company.
Focus. Early in my career at Best of Care, I was managing all facets of the business out of fear that somebody else would make a mistake. What I found is that hiring and/or promoting people allowed me to add a layer of professional management that would free up my time to focus on long-term goals and keep abreast of industry trends. By adding key staff to our management team who are great at their jobs, I am now able to concentrate on the big picture.
Hire smart. Be flexible. Encourage learning. The family business panelists who joined me at the seminar are also focused on hiring talented individuals who are passionate about their companies success. I told the audience that a few of our more recent hires actually said to me during the interview process that they were attracted to the idea of working for a family business after having worked in more rigid, corporate environments. While some family businesses may feel that family members should be the only decision makers, I believe that it’s important to hire young and ambitious staff and give them the opportunity to make (and own) their decisions. It’s important to allow key members of your organization the opportunity to make mistakes, identify lessons learned from failures, and use these experiences to make the company even stronger.
Make the leadership shift internally before announcing changes externally. While I became president and chief operating officer of Best of Care in 2013, the shift in leadership between Stephen and me had been taking place for more than a year. By presenting at regional and national conferences, acquiring another agency, and expanding our geographic reach, I was prepared to handle new responsibilities. As a result, when my title formally changed, I was not overwhelmed. Looking back, this shift in leadership was pivotal both for Best of Care and for my family. My father is very proud of how we managed the transition. And I am proud that he trusts both my judgment and my leadership style.
Over the past four years we have stayed true to my father’s belief that all our clients deserve personalized attention. My job going forward? To ensure we remain true to Best of Care’s concierge approach to home care as we continue to grow on mainland Massachusetts and on the Cape.
Do you own a family owned business? What are your biggest challenges? Successes? We’d love to hear from you. And if you operate in Massachusetts, reach out to the Family Business Association, which can help you connect, get support and learn from family business peers.
Kevin Smith is president and COO, Best of Care, Inc. which serves Greater Boston, South Shore and Cape Cod communities with offices in Quincy, Raynham and Dennis, Mass. Best of Care’s concierge-level services include personal care services, homemakers and companions, hospice care, private nursing, nursing care management and specialty services as they relate to dementia, psychiatric and acquired brain injury care. Best of Care Inc. was named a 2014 Family Business of the Year finalist by the Family Business Association of Massachusetts. Smith is an Executive Committee member of the Massachusetts Council for Home Care Aides.