What does Remgro, Nandos, Pick ‘n Pay and de Beers have in common? They are all family businesses.
Joss du Trevou, director of the @EcoMotel Group, and president of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization tells us about what it is like to work in a family business and why family businesses are successful.
How are family businesses different form other businesses?
Family businesses focus on establishing the business for the long term, across multiple generations. Succession planning plays an important role.
Ecomotel was started by my father Roland, who in turn has handed the reigns to his two sons; my brother Cedric du Trevou and I.
The “passing of the baton” is a long process which happens over a number of years. This ensures that our family’s values are entrenched from one generation to the other.
Having said that, each generation brings their own “secret to success” based on their individual personalities and strengths. For example, Roland has always dominated the marketing and sales function within Ecomotel. Cedric’s strengths however lie in operations, and I enjoy the strategy and finance space. Alan, Cedric’s son, has recently joined the company and is passionate about advertising and social media.
What are the advantages?
I think one of the biggest advantages of being part of a family business is the ability to make quick decisions. We don’t have a formal or bureaucratic process to get things done. We get together as a family and agree on what needs to be done and we do it.
I also think that being a family business, you can instil values that are close to your heart which the rest of the company can look up to. One of our core values is “We are a team with family values” and this plays out in many aspects of our business. As a result, we see much lower staff turnover, with many staff working for us for long periods of time, because they feel Ecomotel IS their family.
How do you ensure that your family business has a lasting legacy?
It’s important to spend time on creating a culture that will take the business through the different generations. As a family, we are clear about the type of culture we want for the business. It’s up to us as a family to live out our values, it’s important we “practice what we preach”, and that our values are not just a poster on the wall. We try to live our values every day, and “walk the talk”.
Does the du Trevou family have any traditions?
The du Trevou family is French Mauritian and as such we have a love of the sea. As a family we always try to enjoy a sea holiday together at least once a year. This involves not just fun in the sun, but immersing ourselves in the Mauritian culture of big family get-togethers, seafood braais and lots of chilli! When we are not at the sea, we enjoy spending Sunday lunches together as a family.
What are the dos and don’ts with working in a family business
I think it’s important to try and separate work and play. It’s easy to slip into shop-talk at the family braai. Another don’t is to let family dynamics get in the way of important business decisions (which easier said than done). I also think it’s important when you have multiple family members in the business, to be clear about your roles and responsibilities, so each family member has a clear role, underpinned by strong core values.