Ask someone what family means to them and their first answer will almost certainly involve their parents, siblings and other relatives. But probe a little deeper and there are likely to point to other people in their lives who they describe “as like family to me”.
And so it is at THP. Alongside the Tran family – my mother, father, sister and I – are the thousands of people who form part of THP’s “big family”. What binds us all together is not blood, but our shared values that enable us to work happily alongside each other and make the company a success – the two go hand-in-hand.
I have frequently blogged about the importance of core values as the foundation stone for success: not just for THP but any family-owned business that wants to survive and thrive for many generations.
And this is why investment in human resources and training is so important to embed these values into each and every THPer. These values are theoretically easier for me as I have been instilled with them since the day I was born, constantly guided by my parents.
But this is not the case for any new employee joining the firm as an adult. He or she cannot be expected to automatically understand our culture, especially if they have worked elsewhere.
So we invest heavily in training and employee development. And we are not alone.
Harvard Business Review (HBR) research shows that family-owned businesses tend to invest more in employee training than non family-owned ones. It is a reflection of the way they think for the long-term.
That everyone benefits from this investment is evident from another HBR finding: family-owned businesses have lower annual staff turnover rates (9%) than non family-owned ones (11%). People like working for family-owned companies: they feel a sense of belonging and of being valued.
Continuing to strengthen the “big THP family” is a strategic priority for us over the next decade. This reflects a slight shift from how things were for the first couple of decades when my mother and father were focused on creating products and winning market share.
We still have this focus and indeed it reminds me of one of my mother’s sayings about family: when she makes a product, the first person who’ll drink it are her children so she always tries her best.
But now that THP is bigger we place a far greater priority on human development as well. My father frequently uses a shipping metaphor to explain this: his hand is still on the tiller, steering the ship in the right direction, but following the right course will increasingly depend on everyone else who is manning the shipping too.
In an ideal world, we will become a company where individual managers understand each other as well as a brother and sister. The technical term for this is a high reliability organization.
Employees at such organizations respond to challenges or opportunities swiftly and effectively because they are completely attuned to one another, sharing the same attitudes and modes of operation. This is the ultimate expression of core values in action.