Video Blog Friday’s Vol. 13 • Does punctuality really matter?

With each installment of our Video Blog Friday’s Series, Paul Karofsky reflects on influential lessons learned from his career working with family businesses. Each Friday, we will provide a new story with a unique topic – so stay tuned! We hope you enjoy the 13th feature in our series, Does punctuality really matter? where Dad wants to plan for retirement and sees his son’s lack of punctuality as evidence that he is not ready to “take over” the business. Richard and his father need to understand the dynamics and agree on a plan to evaluate Richard’s knowledge and attitude and train him for transition.

Dad: Look, Richard, we’ve had this conversation before. You can’t keep coming in late!

Richard: I don’t understand why you’re so angry. You know I’m not a “morning person” and I was up with the baby again. It’s hard for me to get up so early every day. You’re the first one in every morning, anyway. I stay late and work as hard or harder than anyone. Does it really make a difference if I come in a little bit later?

Dad: You bet it does. It sets a terrible example for other employees. If you can do it, why can’t they? And what if everyone came in whenever they wanted to?

Richard: What if they did? So long as everyone gets all their work done well, does it really matter?

Dad ponders the situation. “I’ve had enough of this business. There are other things I want to do with my life. I’d love to turn it over to Richard, but I swear this kid just doesn’t get it. He’s the last employee to come in almost every morning. Richard’s a great guy. Everyone loves him. He’s bright, he’s capable. But he just doesn’t have his priorities in the right order. How could he possibly believe that his behavior doesn’t impact other employees? He’s my son. He’s supposed to be the model employee. How can I even start to think about slowing down and giving him more responsibility? I wonder if he’ll ever grow up. Or will I be trapped in this business forever?”

Richard reflects, “My dad is so up-tight. He’s got this “thing” about being on time. Maybe he forgot what it’s like to be the parent of young kids. It’s like his life is ruled by the clock. I wish he’d realize that it’s okay for employees to have some flexibility in their work hours. If people are happier and meeting some of their personal needs, I think they’ll ultimately be more productive. It’s time for him to lighten up a bit. I think I’d like to take over the business, but I’d like to get him to slow down first, give me more responsibility, and take some more time off from the business.”

What’s going on…

Dad has a two-fold concern. First he believes the boss’s son does have a special responsibility, an obligation to model the company’s values, to “set a proper example” for other company employees. Dad feels that his employees will judge him and the company by his son’s behavior. He is concerned that if Richard consistently arrives late, that non-family employees will feel that they can come in late also. He believes that a dual standard like that is not an acceptable business practice. It condones a failure to set limits and enforce standard operating policies, and magnifies “special treatment” for family members. Second, Dad wants to start planning for his retirement. The difference between his and Richard’s values exacerbates Dad’s concerns about Richard’s maturity and responsibility. Further, Dad is angry and is afraid that if Richard is not able to take over the business, he may not be able to meet his own goal of retirement.

Richard, meanwhile, is serious in his question, “does it make a difference, does it matter?” Beyond wanting to accommodate his own preference for a later “starting” time, Richard questions whether or not the traditional value of punctuality is vital to business. He wonders why the businesses cannot be more responsive to individual needs so long as all the work gets done? He sees his Dad’s values as old fashioned, out of touch and inflexible. In addition, his father’s behavior of coming in early each morning, gives Richard the opportunity to be late. After all, if Dad is there “to cover,” what’s the urgency for Richard to show up on time? The consequence, of course, is that Dad’s perception of Richard’s “lack of responsibility” is heightened by his repeated lateness, prompting Dad to withhold responsibility. The less responsibility Richard has, the less he feels the need to “model” responsible behavior to other employees.

What should they do…

  • It’s time for Dad and Richard to call “time out” on their repetitive actions. Dad can help do this by not “covering” for Richard and by coming in later in the morning. And Richard needs to hear his father’s concern about punctuality and respond accordingly. Though Richard is trying to convince his father to adopt a new and different set of values which Richard believes are better for him and his generation, his timing is off a bit. While trying to introduce Dad to some “new rules,” Richard is damaging his own image, an image that is vital to the future for both Richard and his father.
  • Dad and Richard need to look to the future and ask some penetrating questions. When does Dad want to exit? What are his options for doing so? Does Richard want to “take over?” What would the timing look like?
  • If Richard would like to be his father’s successor, both need to determine if Richard is “cut out” to take over the business. This starts with a joint evaluation of Richard’s strengths, weaknesses, knowledge, skills and values.
  • Once the needs and the timing become clear, Richard and Dad can build an action plan involving a series of specific measurable achievements which must be accomplished within an agreed time frame. These would include skills in all the appropriate business areas as well as performance to “company standards” like punctuality.

Despite some differences in generational perspectives, Dad and Richard may still be able to achieve their goals. But responsibility in the family business is something that Richard must be prepared to take and not wait for his father to give.

Paul KarofskyPaul Karofsky is Founder/CEO of Transition Consulting Group, Ltd.  He was third generation CEO of his family’s business and is a former monthly columnist for BusinessWeek Online and former case study editor of Nation’s Business and Families in Business. The recipient of multiple awards and honors, Paul holds a certificate in Family Business Advising from FFI with Fellow Status and has been consulting to family enterprises for over 25 years.  Paul can be reached at [email protected] or 561.626.1110


If You Would Like More Information, or To Have A Discussion