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2 Lessons from that New Carl's Jr. Ad #FamilyBusiness

April 17, 2017

  • Business is Business

So, let’s talk quickly about that new Carl’s Jr and Hardees Ad. Ditching the provocative ads of the past full of nearly naked models, the company has a new push to focus on “food not boobs” which includes a family business twist that we weren’t expecting.

In the new spots, Carl Hardee Sr. has come back to the company to fix what his son Carl Jr. did to it — turned a wholesome business into his wild playground.

Here’s what anybody working with family can take away from this:

Your First-Born May Not Be the Best CEO for the Family Business.

We see it all the time: a business founder passes on the family company to the first in line – the first-born son. But, also see that this can quickly turn into a disaster. Just because he is the first-born and the natural heir, it doesn’t mean he should be running the business. The first step to successfully hiring a family member is to hire based on instinct, not birth order or gender myths. Each of us has a natural set of talents and a sustainable family business hires based on the right fit of instinctive capabilities and available roles.

Before your child, or any family member, joins the business, you must be able to answer “Yes” to these questions:

  1. Does this family member share your work ethic and business values?
  2. Can you and this family member keep your workplace conversations totally focused on work issues – and not let it dominate personal time?
  3. Is there a path of success that fits the instinctive capabilities of this family member?
  4. Would the family member be committed to the company mission?
  5. Does the family member communicate well with relatives and others?
  6. Does the family member understand that business is business, so family connections will not impact performance evaluations and rewards?
  7. Do you have an “out” if it doesn’t work?

These questions should serve as the starting point for any family-work relationship. We generally recommend that before a child joins a family business, he or she should go do something else – outside the family company – first and see if it makes sense to join the family later.

A Founder Better Have a Good Reason to Return

The other thing we noticed about the Carl’s Jr Ads is that the company founder came back to the company to straighten things out. In this case it may make the most sense — Carl Jr did seem to make a mess of things and who better to take the company back to its roots but the founder himself. But, more often than not, a founder creeps back into the family business because he didn’t make a graceful exit up front.

We’ve seen that getting out of a family business can be harder than starting it. There are some Dos and Don’ts to consider:

  • Don’t wait for people or circumstances to force you out
  • Don’t think you’re the only person who can keep the place going
  • Don’t stop being productive – or you’ll creep back into work
  • Do openly discuss your plans for the future
  • Do have friends outside the business with whom you enjoy spending time
  • Do things that make you happy

It’s important for a founder to know when to leave the party and to exit with a plan. It requires that there’s a wise alternative and that both the founder and the next generation agree on the capability of those who will take over.

In our new book, Business is Business: Reality Checks for Family-Owned Companies, Kathy Kolbe and I tackle issues like birth-order and how a founder should exit the company they founded.

Let me know what tips and tricks have worked in your family business.

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  • Business is Business


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