Building Your Own Network When You’re Part of a Family Business

Is It All Really in the Family?

Family businesses: despite what network and cable television would have us believe, they are not all drama, backstabbing, and fighting for succession. In fact, 87% of all American businesses are family owned or controlled. From local Mom and Pop-style restaurants to multi-billion-dollar companies like Fidelity Investments, there are 32.4 million family-owned businesses in America alone. But when second, third, and fourth generations inherit companies from their parents and grandparents, they often also inherit rolodexes and address books full of their parents’ and grandparents’ business contacts. These contacts are valuable of course, but savvy new owners know that if you are going to grow any business, your network must grow with it. This is why a common question that many inheritors of family businesses find themselves asking is “How do I build my own network within the frame of what previous generations have already established?”

It’s a valid question, and not one with an easy answer. Partially, it does depend on whether a business owner wants to continue to operate their new business in a similar manner to what was done previously, whether they want to move the business in a completely new direction, or whether their plans lie somewhere in between those extremes. Either way, if you find yourself the brand-new owner of your family’s business, here are some things to consider when building your network:

  1. Utilize Established Relationships

Begin by exploring the existing network your family has built over the years. This includes relationships with clients, suppliers, and other business contacts. By understanding the history and dynamics of these connections, you can identify areas for growth and potential opportunities for collaboration.

  1. Seek Peer Support and Education

Reach out to other business leaders who share your commitment to family values and entrepreneurial success. Join peer groups and forums like the EFBC, where you can learn from others’ experiences and share your own insights. Surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals offers fresh perspectives and strengthens your support system.

  1. Leverage Technology and Digital Networking

In today’s digital age, technology has become an invaluable tool for building and expanding networks. Here’re some examples:

  • Take advantage of social media platforms: LinkedIn is a great platform to connect with professionals in your industry, join relevant groups, and participate in discussions.
  • Email Newsletters: Subscribe to industry-specific newsletters to stay informed and connect with contributors
  • Online Communities: Join organizations or associations that offer online community forums where members can discuss challenges and share resources.
  • Virtual networking events: Attend webinars and online conferences to meet and engage with peers and industry experts.
  1. Seek Mentorship

Mentorship is a powerful resource for personal and professional growth. Look for experienced mentors who can offer guidance, advice, and support as you navigate the complexities of family business ownership. Their insights and perspectives can provide valuable perspective and help you build your network effectively.

  1. Give Back to the Community

Of course, giving back to the community is always something that sounds like a great thing to do, but for new business owners, especially those inheriting family businesses, the motives for community outreach can go above and beyond altruism. After all, the community in which you are doing business has supported your family for years, and the members of that community will want to know that you continue to be as invested in them as they are in you. In fact, studies show that 85% of consumers have a more positive image of a company that gives back, and 90% of consumers want to know how a company is engaging with their community. Beyond that, giving back can help build or strengthen partnerships, which only serves to build your family’s network, and by extension, your own.

In conclusion, building your own network within a family business is a dynamic process that requires a strategic approach. By utilizing technology, cultivating relationships, seeking peer support as well as mentorship, and giving back to the community, you can create a strong network that supports your personal and professional growth. Embrace the journey, and make the most of the EFBC community for support and guidance along the way.