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Lisa Smith runs a family business called Smith Eliot in Oakham, Rutland. They’ve been in the business of financial planning for the last 30 + years. It’s a true family business with several members, including Lisa’s husband Stephen, and two of his children, Charlotte, and Jonny. Charlotte’s husband Craig also works there.

The benefits of this:

It is a great achievement, and they love having built it to 18 people. Lisa’s background is from a larger corporate and she’s used to the development of people, which she values. She brought these values with her but being a smaller business, it can be more challenging. That’s because it’s difficult to implement these as individuals have varying abilities and differing expectations! Managing people is difficult – communication is often  tricky so that what you say is what people hear. Smith Eliot use development plans for their teams, so that their people can aspire to be the best they can be. This includes training, exams and 1:1s.

How do they cope with Change?

Change is second nature, and they build the business together as leaders and the team, by involving everyone. This includes regular team briefings and consultations regarding any changes they want to implement.   Lisa also treats them like family. This has its benefits as they feel very committed to the business. At the same time, family tend to argue! Close proximity and differing personalities are as much a trigger for niggles and difficulties, as they would be if you were living together at home. Personal relationships are important.  It can then be difficult to be ‘remote’ and be tougher and stop behaviour you see that you don’t want.

Building a Team

Smith Eliot have a young team, 5 people who are around mid-20s. They haven’t held responsible roles elsewhere, so a small business can be valuable territory in which to develop their skills. The team benefit from a chance to take on significant responsibility that way. This might not happen that quickly or that early, within a larger corporate. The trick though, is to persevere. Learning can sometimes be tough and push you out of your comfort zone, but it’s worth it. Putting the work in to developing a team can be hard both for the family ‘manager’ and the staff member.  Recognising their effort, and your own as a leader, is valuable though and often rewarding.

What about the skills as a woman?

Sometimes women lead well in these circumstances. Often that’s because women have high emotional intelligence, and this helps. They’re able to ‘read’ situations, ‘head them off’ before they become bigger problems. Lisa is able to tackle things well. She’s great at problem solving and anticipating issues before they become a problem for the business. She’s often right too!

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