Four Frameworks For Family Businesses

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Find or combine the perfect frameworks for your family business.Rawpixel / Unsplash

Long gone are the days of Michael Porter’s five forces and the Four P’s of the marketing mix. Even the Seven C’s compass model is looking a bit shopworn. Although the underlying principles of these theories are still very relevant, today we need systems that are far more dynamic—all those spanking new social media platforms, advances in technology and the constantly evolving virtual marketplace mean that unless a marketing theory can evolve with equal agility, it’s probably as doomed as the dodo.

In addition to the sheer number of channels that need to be monitored and managed, today communication happens in ways the Porters and other marketing pioneers would have had trouble envisioning: underground marketing, guerrilla marketing, digitalization which exploded into social media and the advent of “influencers”.

Brands Are More Complicated Than They Used to Be

Once you decide on how to craft your brand, sooner or later you’ll have to consider the question posed by the above developments, ergo, what is brand management these days? Today managing a brand is so much more than a great logo, catchy tagline and the right typography. (Remember cutting and pasting billboard and magazine mockups?) These days, brand management affects all aspects of a business from planning, research and development and innovation, right through to employee engagement.

This is why an integrated approach to brand management is essential. Managing brands in the 21st century is more about existentialism than about the hard sell —we are trying to make sense of who we are and why we exist; about how to connect across cultures and continents. Proceeding from that rather esoteric inquiry can help us determine how market forces today affect different areas of our business and what we need to do about them.

Running Out of Time

Five-year plans and long-range business strategies are out. No one has an inkling where we’ll be in 2 years, let alone 5 years. Paradoxically, the more complicated and busy the airspace, the more we need simple, universal models and systems that are timeless and easy to understand. When models are easy to understand people adopt them, and adopted ideas and models spread and create change in the world.

Enter the Frameworks

Nearly everything today seems to be “templatized,” standardized and “fill-in-the-blanks”. Even though brand management isn’t always so reducible, being part science and part art, here are some frameworks and tools to help you make sense of how to proceed.

  1. Business Model Canvas

    The Business Model Canvas (BMC) is a compartmentalized, graphic representation of the many aspects involved in running a modern business. BMC is infinitely flexible, can represent virtually any business on earth, is easily shared between far-flung departments and can guide the company on a day-to-day basis from the boardroom. This canvas has also been modified for everything from the Lean Canvas to the Family Canvas.

  2. Undercurrent’s Operating Model

    Responsive OSUndercurrent

    Aaron Dignan former founder of Undercurrent (now The Ready ), believes that businesses run best when they have good operating systems. The suggested operating model consists of five nested domains: Purpose, Process, People, Product and right at the core Platform.

    According to Undercurrent, “This manifests in a visionary (not commercial) Purpose that guides an agile (not linear) Process that enables People who make (not manage) Products built to evolve (not built to last) which become Platforms for the world (not just your company) to build upon.”

    For more about this theory, see this article or Dignan’s Medium profile.

  3. Start with Why

    Start with why.Simon Sinek

    Simon Sinek believes that by having a clearly defined purpose, businesses can flourish. Think of the old saying, “If you know your ‘why’, you can survive a thousand ‘how’s’.” To get started thinking down the right lines watch this TED video.

  4. Primal

    Primal works on the idea that vibrant social and business communities exist when there’s a clearly defined belief system in place to which all parties subscribe. To explain this, Patrick Hanlon developed the Primal Code, the 7 parts of which are: The Creation Story, The Creed, The Icons, The Rituals, The Sacred Words, The Non-Believers and The Leader. Defining and understanding these iconic (and some would say archetypal) components allows businesses to become marketplace cults. To get started the book, Primalbranding is available on Amazon or here are Hanlon’s own cliff notes from his Medium profile.

Each of these frameworks could be used on their own or be combined to form a more holistic view. Primal’s structure for example naturally lends itself to how families already operate. Says Hanlon,

Primal is the root code for human beings. We are hard-wired to collect in groups and the seven pieces of primal code are the triggers for that engagement. When you think about families, they are the fundamental unit for us as human beings. From the time we are born, we are told that we are a brother, a sister, a son or daughter, a cousin, grandchild and we are told that this is a home, this is our neighborhood, these are our people. Without family, we are lost.

Create Your Own Cult

Happily or unhappily, there’s no single tool to fix everything. So mix it up—explore the options, communicate with your family members and management about their reactions and feelings to the various models and platforms and select tools that resonate with your crowd. And if they begin calling you Fearless Leader, just nod and smile.



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