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Daoust on the trump card of the family business as an employer

Family Business

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Giles Daoust is at the head of the well-known family business Daoust, that won last year’s ‘Entrepreneur of the Year/L’Entreprise de l’Année 2016’ award. The company received the award for its growth, financial health, innovation, values and a prosperous family transition. We spoke with Giles Daoust about what a successful takeover of a family business should be like and how to identify yourself as an employer.

Picture: daoust.be: Enterprise de l'année 2016: Ernst & Young en l'Echo

While studying, Giles started the movie production company ‘Title Media’, thus proving at a young age that he had entrepreneurial blood. Five years later, his company is at cruising speed and Giles starts wondering about the future of Daoust. Giles: “Because I was an only child and my father had turned 60, I decided to step into the family company.” By starting out as Marketing Manager and working his way up to CEO a few years later, he deliberately took his time for the takeover. “Gradually, I expanded my know-how by managing a series of projects for the company and by taking charge of additional departments. That way, I got to know the company and its employees, and I was assured that I was on the right track.”

Daoust, a family recipe

During the preparations for the transition process, Giles found that a large part of the corporate culture originated in his father’s personality. “My father has a strong personality and is an example in the business. He has always guarded the personal family values and the values of enterprising.” Those characteristics allowed Jean-Claude Daoust to build the company to what it is today; a Human Resources company with a national network of agencies with strong values. “What I learned most from my father is to take risks, be inventive, question yourself and focus on the human aspects of the company. He also taught me to control my impulses and that, sometimes, you should take the time to find the right solution to a problem.”

“What I learned most from my father is to take risks, be inventive, question yourself and focus on the human aspects of the company.”

When Giles joined the company, it was already quite big and growing steadily. So, how can you continue that successful formula? “In this growing business, it seemed problematic to me to have a corporate culture only carried by myself, so I illustrated our values in two themes: ‘Welcome to the Family’ and ‘We Love Solutions’. These two themes properly represent the homely atmosphere, the entrepreneurship and the innovation of Daoust.” According to Giles, the success of the transition also lies in the gradualness of the process: “We used a lot of time for ‘onboarding’ and there has always been transparency between my father, me and the management team. When I became CEO, my father stepped down from the board of directors to avoid complicating things for our employees.”

Human Resources Management 4.0

Through their experience with HR, Daoust clearly sees that companies are struggling with innovation in Human Resources Management. “Companies need a more encompassing vision on HR, especially family business and SMEs. They usually lack a global vision when it comes to managing internal careers and are hesitant to supply the necessary resources. Ten years later, they encounter significant problems with their teams, management or even the board of directors.”

“Companies need a more encompassing vision on HR, especially family-owned businesses and SMEs.”

Even Daoust must face this challenge and Giles thinks they are successful. “For example, we try to innovate when applying for a new profession. Think about service cheques, it’s become one of our biggest departments. Not to mention Career Management (outplacement, coaching, training) which is becoming more important every day. Several years ago, we started to develop a number of software programs internally, such as Daoust Connect (customer extranet), Matchbox (matching tool), wikiD (internal info database) and more recently DaJobs (platform of the sharing economy). These past few years we kept innovating, but we still have to question ourselves and remain unbiased.”

Every business is a family business

According to Giles, the DNA of a family-owned business isn’t all that special, every enterprise originates from a family business. “People often forget to mention it, but all start-ups are family businesses. Every day, the founders are backed by their families, if only to support them and give them the chance to fully commit to the enterprise. Some flourish, others disappear. Some remain family-owned, others don’t. After that, one has to adapt to growth, to time passing by, to the evolution of technology, sometimes even to internationalization. When a family remains at the helm, they sometimes struggle to adapt to these evolutions.”

“People often forget to mention it, but all start-ups are family businesses. Every day, the founders are backed by their families, if only to support them and give them the chance to fully commit to the enterprise.”

Family-owned businesses are all about long-term strategy and a great mutual understanding. “When several family members are working at different levels of the business, there shouldn’t be any difference between them and other employees, to avoid creating inequalities that could cause problems.” The greatest challenge for family businesses, according to Giles, is to find excellent and motivated personnel, especially in management. “Family businesses compete with foreign international companies that can sometimes be more popular. This could appeal to employees who are less attracted towards a family business.”

Trump card

At the same time, this difference in approach also creates opportunities. “We live in an age where values and the balance between private and professional life are increasingly important. International companies sometimes have a very impersonal culture, or one that focuses too heavily on financial results, because the guidelines are coming from abroad.” Family-owned businesses generally focus more on people than on numbers. “Employees can have a slightly more intimate relationship with the board of directors and they can lay out a more ‘personalized’ career within the enterprise. Family-owned businesses should utilize this trump card by distinguishing themselves in their approach, their focus on people and their enterprising spirit, which appeals to a wide audience.”

"Family-owned businesses should utilize this trump card by distinguishing themselves in their approach, their focus on people and their enterprising spirit, which appeals to a wide audience.”

The small family-owned business often has more personality than a big multinational, but less resources to put itself in the spotlight. “Initiatives such as the Family Business Knowldedge Community ensure that people pay attention to the unique character and quality of family-owned businesses and SMEs. This way the general public can get to know them better, which is very important.”

Curious as to which insights we can offer you on the opportunities created by the aging job market?

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