Nepotism is a fact of life in the business world.
In some cases, it can be a good thing, as company founders will often pass down their skills and knowledge to the next generation of their family.
Sometimes, however, nepotism can be a plague to a business. This is especially true when nepotism manifests itself in the form of underperforming salespeople who only keep their position because they are personally close to the founders of the company. These salespeople are often known as "red circle guys." Why? They're protected by ownership and can't be touched.
How to Manage Underperforming Salespeople Who are Close to the Owner
When considering how to deal with underperforming salespeople who are close to the founder, it is important that you make the issue known and begin planning a course of action; otherwise, red circle sales professionals can lead to grave issues.
Address The Problem
The first step in the process of how to manage the boss's son is making sure that the problem is known to them personally.
Before you involve any other people, try to pull the salesperson and talk to them directly. It could be that they are not aware of how their behavior is negatively impacting the company, or maybe they think they are doing the right thing. Gently remind them of what their job description entails and of the informal impact their actions have on the rest of the team.
In an Inc. article about dealing with problem employees, managers are advised that the first step to disciplining employees is exchanging information and setting goals. Try to engage your problematic salesperson in an open conversation about expectations and how they feel they are meeting them. Transparency is key. From there, you should create a plan that you both can follow that will track their progress and make sure they are on target to correct their issues and perform at a higher level.
If The Problem Persists
The most difficult part of how to manage the owner's family and friends is what to do if their negative behavior continues. At this point, it may be necessary to involve upper level management. Often, these managers are the ones who are related to the salesperson; if the family manager understands how their relative is underperforming, they might be able to have a frank talk with them that helps them improve.
In the worst cases, measures must be taken to let the poorly performing employee go.
While this is never an option that should be chosen lightly, if a salesperson is not performing properly and has proven unwilling to do what is necessary to fix their behavior time and time again, they are probably not a good fit for the company. Make sure to document all of these transgressions and present them to upper management in a way that makes sense.
Dealing with problematic employees is never easy, but in the field of sales, underperforming sales reps must be corrected or they can eventually sink the entire organization.
Salespeople who are in the personal circle of high-level company leadership require extra-sensitive care to deal with. Be thoughtful and reasonable when considering how to deal with bad salespeople who are in the family of the founders and it will be much less of a challenge to fix this issue.