We’ll Never Do That Again: Taking the Temperature of Your Family Business Culture

We thought we had pretty thick skin until we received responses from our Employee Opinion Survey.

When was the last time you asked your employees how they thought things were going? We had just come off an unsuccessful union organizing drive in our family business by a small faction of disgruntled employees. Even though the union wasn’t voted in, it made us aware of some employee issues that needed attention to improve the culture of our company.

When the labor issue was over, part of the healing process was how to move forward and mend relations with the affected employees. We had hired an outside labor management firm to guide us through the unionizing campaign. The management firm used two tools to evaluate the employee sentiment. The first was a comprehensive wage survey to benchmark our wages against other companies in the area.  More…

Dangers of Poor Employee Communication in a Family Business

“We turned her down, and later found out she had approached the union, to stage the union drive, in order to win her job back.”

As family business entrepreneurs, we often tend to manage by hunch, figuring things out as we go along, especially in the earlier startup years. Many of the issues we face as our businesses grow; we plod through, without much advice from outside advisors. Surprisingly, most of the time it works out well. For our family business, this time it didn’t.

We had been in business for about 15 years, and our compensation plan was pretty basic; salary plus a holiday bonus. The bonus was pretty much automatic. One year we decided to revise the bonus portion, realizing that as longer-term employees’ compounded wages increased, it was increasing the bonus portion disproportionately. We decided to cap the bonus for the highest paid managers.

One of our long-term managers became upset with the new bonus program and decided to leave the company.

About six months later we had a group of employees, petition for a union organizing More…