As a family business ourselves and having partnered family businesses to recruit key Leaders for the last 12 or so years, this article provides a great example as to why recruiting an "outsider" CEO can have such a positive impact.
The key to any success of inviting an "outside" Leader into a family business is the amount of empowerment and autonomy you are willing to give them. In my experience, we have recruited some exceptional leaders for family business who have the best of intentions to empower them and allow them to innovate and inspire the business to accelerate its performance. The reality, however, has been very different and frustrating for our recruits whose ideas and motivation for change have been quickly stiffled usually due to the worry around risk of change. When this happens any investment made to attract exceptional talent becomes a total waste.
On the other hand I have also worked with family companies who see the bigger picture and recruit new Leaders who share a Vision and allow them to deliver it. This usually results in growth and a more robust business that reinvents itself for future success.
“I had always been frustrated with our hiring policy,” Mr Booth explains, “It always focused on, firstly, are they family, do they like walking in the Lakes, do they fish? And if you were a good chap, you were on board. I thought we needed to have a bit more of a proper test.” As a result of Mr Booth’s respect for corporate governance, Mr Dee – who’d just sold his small off-licence chain to Oddbins – was set the test of identifying 12 different unlabelled wines and being asked to identify the grape, region and price point. Twenty years on from joining Booths as a wine and spirit buyer, Mr Dee now sets the same test for his recruits. Together, the two men are hoping to re-energise Booths to ensure it isn’t stuck in the past.