Families love to run their own operations. Crises can occur, though, when there is a lack of sufficient management skill to grow the business to its next level. As competition becomes more intense, a greater number of family businesses are hiring skilled non-family managers.

“Mature families often realize they do not hold all the cards needed to win the game,” says Paul Karofsky, principal of Transition Consulting Group, Weston, MA. “Hiring an outsider can be the best way to acquire needed skills.”

Hiring a non-family manager, though, must be done correctly. Karofsky notes that family businesses must clearly define job functions to avoid resentments when a non-family manager makes decisions that may conflict with the traditional procedures and established roles of the family. He suggests writing down clear job definitions and responsibilities for the new manager and for everyone else in the operation.

Even with such job descriptions in place, warns Karofsky, conflicts can arise when the non-family manager makes decisions that family members consider foolish or even threatening to the operation. Obviate such crises by drawing up a strategic business plan that calls for measurable implementations and results.

Establish a regular program of communications between the manager and the family owners. This can include initial written reports, followed by formal board presentations with strict agendas, and ongoing, informal discussions all along the way.

That kind of multi-layered approach distills good communications techniques into a workable management machine. It's not such a bad template for any family business looking for successful interaction with any level of non-family employee.