How to Recruit the Very Best Senior People into a Family Business

7 years ago


It’s no secret that family businesses offer some of the most rewarding job opportunities; capitalising on the unique strength of providing an excellent working environment, a committed team and real sound family values. A recent report by the Institute for Family Business concluded that employees of family owned businesses have greater job satisfaction and loyalty to the firm than those working for their corporate counterparts.

Bringing a senior person into a family culture can be tricky if they are to fit into the excellent working environment, a committed team and shared core values. It’s also key that the people brought into the family fold can settle quickly, be retained and deliver the key objectives. Finding them in the first instance can often be the biggest challenge but once identified, can be life changing for everyone.

Having recently gone through this exercise in our business and as a recruiter eager to make the best selection for our new role of Head of Recruitment, we wanted to share our top 7 tips based on our experiences over the last 12 months dealing with the biggest appointment our family firm has ever made, eventually selecting Helen Jackson.

Cummins Mellor is a family business born out of our back bedroom on the 5th February 1990. My husband Richard and I have built a sustainable enterprise based on family values, running all areas of the operation together. Our daughter Katie recently joined our largest division Chefs Jobs UK following a couple of years with international recruitment firm, Michel Page. Our biggest challenge has always been to find and retain people who are loyal to the family and prioritise the business whilst being dedicated to our vision of transforming the company from a local to a national brand across our recruitment and safeguarding services.


1. Give Yourself Time And You Will Have More Time To Give

We underestimated the time factor – be prepared to factor in months rather than weeks of work. Selecting the right person to fit into the unique culture of our family firm and overcoming the sensitivities of bringing an outsider inside is a difficult but crucial process.

The appointment and selection process took a great deal of invested time, patience and effort to find a key senior figure to slot nicely into the company.


2. Before Beginning, Plan Carefully

We planned well in advance and didn’t rush the process or decision. The chances of the perfect fit walking through the door were marginal,  working out why and who you need as well as identifying and finding the right person in terms of skills and personality is going to take real thought and discussion between the senior decision makers of the organisation. Richard and I spent a long time on this issue and we did seek expert guidance from outside.


3. Assumptions Are The Termites of Relationships

Communicate to the whole team. We knew we needed to be crystal clear with our existing team about the position we wanted to fill. Why and what were the main objectives for bringing Helen into the team? What were the long term needs of the business? We spent a lot of time really identifying the skill gaps needed to take the business forward, for us this required a lot of honesty about where or core strengths and weaknesses lay within our existing team.


4. The Devil is in the Detail

As with any great piece of recruitment, we ensured we gathered as much information as possible during the recruiting process. Getting to know the individual and finding out exactly what they are capable of and how they interact in the work environment is crucial. For Helen, we carried out three very detailed face to face interviews, arranged for her to make a presentation and to run a training session on a key area of the business. We also organised time for Helen and other potential hires to come into the office for a couple of days to see if they fitted in.


5. The Joy of the Mind is a Measure of its Strength

Consider psychometrics and profiling; these are great tools and when used correctly, allow you to approach a weakness in an individual in a non-aggressive and objective way. We invested in external help to gain this detailed, key information to help with identifying, as well as evaluating conscious and unconscious thinking. What type would the individual revert to when under pressure or when working to deliver a deadline? More importantly, how would they react when influencing others to deliver a project? The information gained from this exercise was invaluable for us in helping to really know what we would have to watch out for and work on with our new employee- the chances of finding the perfect 360 degree fit would almost certainly never happen. There is always something to work on with everyone but it proved crucial being totally informed and aware of the absolute facts of the individual’s character and how they are hard wired in advance of their selection. This helped us achieve near perfection.


6. Winning Teams do their Homework

It goes without saying to check references; we did both verbally and in written form. We also provided an opportunity for Helen to socialise with the existing team, a drink, a meal and inviting her to an out of work gathering really enabled us to see how she reacted with people informally.  It is amazing how quickly people relax and show their real character away from the formal interview process and its key you see this for yourself.


7. The Journey of a Thousand Miles Starts with a First Step

Finally we gave some real thought and preparation to Helen’s first few months. It was essential that that our new recruit settled quickly once she had been selected and started. We ensured a clear role, Helen knew exactly what she was expected to achieve for the business, and we factored in time for her to get to know systems, processes as well as the individual people she would be managing and have influence over. It was important she was included in decision making and has a clear pathway to allow her personality to shine. Feeling valued, appreciated and allowing an opportunity to give and receive feedback has been and continues to be invaluable for both parties. Above all, permitting her space and giving Helen her head to deliver the key objectives of why she has been recruited in the first place is essential for the appointment to work and for the family business and everyone in the business to thrive in the future.


Oh and by the way…Helen and the business are doing very, very well!















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