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Pooling Family Talents: Make Use of Skills

By: Jennie Kermode - Updated: 15 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Pooling Family Talents: Make Use Of Skills

Pooling Family Talents: Make Use Of Skills

One of the most difficult things about starting up in business is making sure you have access to all the skills you need - given that you might not identify the need for some of them until you've already started work. One of the advantages of a family business is that you have a ready-made skill pool available to you. By drawing on family talent you can make sure your business is strong from the start, protecting your investment and safeguarding your family's future.

Identifying Skills

The easiest way to begin identifying the skills already present within your family is to consider past experience. Each of you should sit down and try to come up with a list of all their past experience, including skills learned doing unpaid work and whilst at school. Since you know these people, you should know how seriously you can take each item on the list - this isn't like interviewing a stranger where you need long-standing formal employment as proof of ability.

Remember that a skill acquired in one area can often be effectively transferred to another. For instance, a teenager who spends a lot of time in computer chat rooms may have good typing skills, whilst a brother who works in telephone sales is likely to have a good phone manner which could be advantageous when dealing with clients. Unpolished skills can be shaped through training and this could be a lot quicker and easier than trying to develop them from scratch.

Identifying Talents

A natural talent differs from a skill in that it may not have been developed at all. As such it is of limited use to your business in the immediate term but it can potentially be of great use later on, and it may be worth starting to develop it as soon as possible. Talent is a measure of our ability to learn certain types of skill and it tends to show up in the other things we can do. For instance, if a family member is known to have a good head for numbers, they might be the right person to send on an accounting course offered by your local business support centre. The important thing to note here is that some people will boast about talents which they don't really possess in any great measure, whilst others will be shy and not speak up about what they're good at.

You need to be as objective as possible, especially when it comes to sizing up your own abilities. If you have to tell a family member that you don't want them to be responsible for an area of the business where they think their natural talents would shine, you don't have to tell them you think they're incapable - you can, for instance, suggest instead that they might be the only suitable person for a different job.

Making Skills Work Together

Coming together to develop and launch a family business requires an emotional as well as a financial investment, so good, sensitive teamwork is necessary at every stage. Making a list of the family skills and talents available to you can help you work out what direction the business is able to go in and can make it easier to decide who should be responsible for what. Try to approach this in a fair and objective way and encourage family members to share their skills with others where appropriate - for instance, by having the most computer-literate person make sure that everybody else coming into contact with computer administration knows how the system works.

Often you'll find that you're rich in skills in a particular area but lacking in others. This is where it becomes important to develop family talents and to take advantage of training opportunities. Sometimes you may need to do this before the business can be launched, or before it can expand in a particular direction.

However you organise things, it's important to realise that your skill pool is a part of your business' capital, a part of its wealth. The better you understand it and the more effectively you can employ it, the better your business will do.

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