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Bringing the family business community together

Next Gens Help To Think Digital

25th October 2017 Cam Cecchini

Taking the family firm digital is viewed by many as a necessity for survival and also provides a great opportunity for the next generation to make their mark.

In PwC’s third Next Generation Family Business survey, 75% of respondents believe that it’s very important or essential to have a strategy fit for a digital age. However, only 7% believe their own firms are doing this really well. 36% of next-gens reported being frustrated because the current generation does not fully understand the potential for digital and risks it could pose. This gap between the current and next-generation is alarming. Without more support, many next-gens will see digital opportunities come and go.

User experience designer, author and speaker, Paul Boag, writes in his book, “Digital Adaptation” that “Digital is: cheaper, faster, more flexible, easier to monitor and more targeted.” And goes on to say, “By turning to digital first, companies are discovering ways it can aid their business. This gives them a competitive advantage over those which are not so progressive.” Leave your mark on the family business by making digital a priority.

Here are three considerations for next-gens looking to address the digital challenge:

1.Getting buy-in from the current generation.

2.Deciding which digital initiative to pursue first.

3.Quick digital wins that won’t rock the boat.

What to do if the current generation isn’t sold.

No matter the impact digital can have on an organization, it’s all for nothing if those at the top are reluctant to implement it. To get past this obstacle we need to put ourselves in their shoes, see the world from their eyes for a bit before suggesting any brash changes. Find out what’s holding them back. Was it a failed project that ate up the years marketing budget? Maybe it was a technology choice that ended a longtime friendship with a vendor. Whatever the case you need to know the motivation behind what you’re up against and adjust your approach accordingly.

Lead with the numbers. Design agency Zurb compiles all sorts of interesting data on mobile email usage, social media engagement, design triggers and more. If you’re having a hard time getting through to those at the top, strengthen your case by coming to the table with data. Armed with usage statistics, consumer trends and your website analytics, you’ll make the digital case hard to ignore.

Highlight competitors. While the current generation may not want to be the first to jump into the digital space, it’s much more likely they won’t want to be the last. Put together digital overviews of competitors, highlighting what they’re doing that works and what doesn’t. Keep the conversation centered around what you would improve and how it would impact the business.

Deciding Which to Pursue First — What business goal is the project supporting?

Digital encompasses a variety of tools aimed at solving a myriad of business problems. When looking into which initiative or small project to pursue first, start by identifying what you’re looking to achieve. Are you trying to convert more of your engaged social media following? Are you trying to create more awareness about an upcoming sale before Christmas? Are you trying to increase sales to existing customers? Is your brand starting to feel out of touch with your target market? Defining the goal first filters the digital options available to you. Completely avoid analysis paralysis, or overthinking the situation, and focus your time on pursuing objectives that get you closer to your goal.

Quick Wins — Use smaller projects to get your team on board.

Recently, one of my next-gen clients was having a hard time getting the current generation to buy-in on some digital initiatives we were drawing up. After discussing the situation a bit, it was clear that the current generation was not opposed to the digital space, it was just foreign. We proceeded with a smaller project than what was initially proposed. Our decision to tackle a smaller scale project and for it to deliver a healthy return to the business was enough to get him on board with pursuing more opportunities in digital.

Be prepared and patient to get the current generation to pay attention to your ideas about moving the business forward. It’s not uncommon for the current generation to oppose things they don’t understand. Don’t get frustrated. Adjust your approach and put it in language they’ll be receptive to.

Before you commit to any specific digital project, be sure that it supports the underlying business goal. Don’t fumble the opportunity. Use smaller, objective-based projects to get more of your team on board with digital. With a few mini-wins under your belt, you’ll have more of the current generation’s confidence. That’s when opportunities really start to open up.

About the Author - Cam Cecchini works for Motor City Mobility, providing web design and digital strategy for next-generation family businesses.  Find out more at




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