The growing pains and perks of a family business

The impact of family businesses on America’s economy and our global competitiveness is undeniable, but they have their own unique set of obstacles.

When you’ve intertwined your business and personal life, it can be challenging to address a major problem. You can handle business problems rather methodically, but major problems in your personal life can disrupt everything. You need time to regroup and focus on what’s most important.

A few years ago, Resource International was in the middle of a large contract when my husband and Rii President, Kamran Majidzadeh, fell ill. Our family’s second generation, vice presidents at the time, were highly trained in all facets of the business and could fill my shoes. We had a formal plan in place, which allowed me to be at Kamran’s side while Rii continued operating seamlessly.

Trust and respect

Just as we didn’t hand the second generation their current roles, there was never an expectation we would hand them the company. If anything, we’ve made it harder. Imagine interviewing for a job in which the boss not only changed your diapers, but also knew any mistakes of your past.

With four second-generation Majidzadehs on our leadership team, there will always be scrutiny of their qualifications and what got them their roles. It’s been essential to me that they demonstrate strong leadership qualities and a genuine commitment to the company, employees and clients. To their credit, each has spent decades learning the business, getting their hands dirty, honing their skills and earning people’s respect by proving themselves on a daily basis.

This has been imperative in our succession planning. Relationships are at the core of our business. But I genuinely believe today, Rii’s clients and employees are just as confident in the next generation’s leadership, as they are in my own.

Generational gaps

One challenge is the potential conflict between generations with different perspectives. Ironically, this has been a source of success, opening our business to new ideas and information.

Certainly, we’ve disagreed at times. However, the wonderful thing about working with family, especially your children, is that they’re never afraid to speak their mind (or offend you). Candid, multi-generational debates can transform companies.

In 2000, when many midsize companies struggled with the basics of technology, the younger generation of Majidzadehs was championing it. Rii began offering clients ProjectGrid.com®, a centralized database to host project information, accessible anytime, anywhere. Our technology was revolutionary for our company and clients.

There are always challenges, but there’s a reason family-owned business make up the backbone of America. For many of us, they epitomize the American Dream.

As I near retirement and try to delegate more, as I formalize a succession plan and help clients know and trust my family, and as I embrace life beyond Rii, I’m reminded there is something incredible about creating and growing a business alongside those you love most. This may explain why, at age 80, when we’re supposed to be retiring on a beach, my husband just invented, patented and launched yet another invention, iiCollector™.

 

Farah B. Majidzadeh is the CEO and chairwoman of the board of Resource International Inc. Farah has received numerous awards for her 43 years in business, including 15 years as an unprecedented chairwoman of an International Joint Venture (Highway Maintenance Associates) in Saudi Arabia.