Monday, December 19, 2016

Seasons Greetings

Wishing you peace, joy, and all the best this wonderful holiday has to offer. May this incredible time of giving and spending time with family bring you joy that lasts throughout the year.

May the message of Christmas fill your life with joy and peace.

Best wishes to you and your family during this holiday season.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Change in the Family Business

Change in the Family Business

“There is nothing permanent except change”
                        Heraclitus, 513 BC

Based on this quote, people have been struggling with change for over 2,500 years.

I recently was talking with several business owners who commented that they felt the economic climate, the business climate, and the family dynamics were changing so fast they did not know which way to turn. Those comments stirred my thoughts to explore what do business families need to be aware of, or not lose in a changing environment?

If we stop to think why people usually fight change it is frequently because they feel they do not have or will not have control and the familiarity of the known is more comforting than the unknown. The natural response to this feeling of powerlessness, frustration, and fear is resistance. This resistance requires inclusion in the discussions, evaluations of the options, and a belief that as a family all are united.

Several ways we can begin to help our families and businesses deal with change is to recognize and admit that change is a fact of life and without it we will never grow our business or build a family legacy. With a recognition of these facts, together the business family can decide what, where, when, and how the change will be met.

By reaching out to other family members, maintaining realistic optimism and a can-do spirit the business can meet and plan for changes by finding new opportunities in changing situations.

Sometimes change feels like a roller coaster with no one sure which way to go.
If you expect the unexpected you will not be surprised that you are surprised.

How is your family and your business planning for change?

Friday, November 11, 2016

Let Me Tell You A Story

Every family in business has a story – or, more likely, many stories. Family stories give context to a family’s culture, historical perspective to current crises, and insight to influences that helped shaped the family and the organization. Stories show next generations who the family is: the family culture, values, work ethic, and faith.  Stories invite the next generation to experience a world that shaped who they are.  Stories connect the listener to the storyteller, to the key players in the story, and to the history. 

For some, getting senior generations to tell stories is easy.  For others, it takes more intentional effort.  Sometimes stories are told during informal conversations at work or at home.  Sometimes creating space for intentional dialogue can foster family storytelling.  Younger generations can provide rich opportunities for telling family stories by asking leading questions. For example:

            Tell me about the time…
            Tell me how you started in the business…
            What was the most difficult obstacle grandpa faced…
            Give me an example of when…
            What did you do when…

What are the stories you are telling your children?

Your stories are unique to your family.  Sometimes, senior generations think their stories are obvious.  Or boring.  Or not interesting to younger generations.  It’s these stories, however, that give context and character to a family.  It shows them how their families became who they are and how the business became what it is.  It’s these stories that give younger generations an identity of who they are.  It helps younger generations grasp hold of an identity bigger than themselves.

The family-ness that comes from this shared identity is also one of a family business’s strongest competitive advantages.  In other words, sharing stories not only brings understanding and identity to family, it is also one of the best ways to develop one of your strongest competitive advantages.

Communicating your family story is part of building your legacy in teaching and raising up the next generations. Your children and grandchildren will continue writing the story of your family. Help your family continue your legacy. 

Let me tell you a story.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

When Dad (or Mom) No Longer Calls The Shots

Preparing the next generation to take over the family business and make decisions as a team must start before the family’s entrepreneurial leader is gone.  Business founders too often spend their entire careers making the difficult decisions by themselves, doing the difficult work, and dictating orders to the next generation.  When the strong leadership and decision-making abilities that made the founder’s business successful at first go unchecked as the next generation comes along, the next generation may not learn how to work through conflict, make decisions as a group, or do the difficult work of leading the organization.

Recently, we heard from a second-generation family business. The family had five siblings, their spouses, and several third generation family members working in the business.  As we talked with each family member, everyone expressed the same sentiment: “Before Dad passed away, we never had conflict.  Dad told us how it was and how it was going to be.”  When we spoke to them, about two years after the father’s death, the second generation was at a true stalemate. They were unable to make a decision as a group.  They could not decide who should lead the business.  Every conversation ended in unresolved conflict.  Sad to say, over the years following their father’s passing, mistrust, conflict, and a decline of respect for each other forced the siblings to the only decision upon which they could all agree: liquidate the business and go their separate ways.

So how can an entrepreneur and his/her family prepare for the future when Dad or Mom no longer calls the shots?

1.       As a family, engage in open communication to define why you want to be a business family.
2.       Be humble and respect your family members for who they are and the knowledge, skills, and abilities they posses.
3.     Commit to truly listen to each other.
4.     Establish communication guidelines that all family members can agree to follow when conflict creeps in or decisions need to be made.
5.     Be a safe family member, including by demonstrating openness to feedback, asking questions, and avoiding reactive behavior.
6.     Create a participatory culture, such as getting all family members in the game and seeking their opinion.
7.     Handle conflicts as they occur by walking toward conflict, handling the “right” problem, and working to move toward mutual agreement.
8.     Remember the counter intuitive requirements. If you want to be heard, first be willing to listen. If you want to be trusted, you must first be willing to show trust.
9.     Be willing to give grace and forgiveness.
10.  Commit to your family.

Following the guidelines above will help set the framework for the next generation to take over the family enterprise and continue the family’s legacy.  If your family is stuck, it might be helpful to have an independent third party come along side your family on this journey.         

This can be the journey of a lifetime.   

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Family Council

For a Business Family there is usually a Board of Directors to help guide and oversee the growth of the Business. As the Family continues to grow through Next Gen Births and by marriage and as the Family works to ‘pass-the-baton’, what mechanisms are in place to help guide and oversee the growth of the Family that own the Business?

One Solution: a Family Council. A Family Council is a group selected by the family-owners to, among other things, identify and pursue the family’s goals; represent the family to management and the Board of Directors; and oversee the family-owners’ goals and objectives over the year.

How does a Family Council work? There is no “one-size-fits-all” template. In fact, an effective Family Council is one that is designed for the specific needs and desires of the family that it serves. Certain steps can help guide the process of organizing a Family Council. First, the family should develop a Family Charter. The Family Charter defines the vision and purpose for the Family Council, and it serves as the foundational document to guide the Family Council. The Family Charter also defines the core values to be communicated to the next generation. The size of the Family Council should be determined by the size, needs, and focus of the family.

Following the decision of the basic structure, governance and goals of the Family Council, the Family Council should also agree on the Meeting Ground Rules and Family Code of Conduct.

A properly structured and implemented Family Council will help minimize ‘misaligned expectations’ and provide another avenue to enhance Family Communication. Discussions within the Family Council can help clarify the Boundaries between the Family and the Business, a safe environment to discuss Family Employment policies, In-Law participation, Business Leadership expectations, Conflict of Interest policies, Shareholders Agreements, just to name a few. While this may first appear to be rigid and formal, as in any Family gathering-having fun is a prerequisite.

Your family’s legacy is too important to expect it to ‘just happen’. It is important to understand what questions to ask, appreciate the sensitivity of the issues and conversations, develop the ability to communicate with those impacted, and support more satisfied lives. To lose family harmony due to a lack of understanding does not help build a family legacy. A legacy of love, harmony, security, and business success is the ultimate goal. As your business family focuses on the development of the family and the business, you need not travel this journey alone.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

How to Foster Leadership Development in a Family Business

By. Dr. Denise Federer

The statistics regarding the longevity of family businesses are sobering to say the least; very few of them make it past the second generation and even less are still around for the third generation. Speculation as to why this occurs is all over the map, but as a family business advisor, it centers on leadership development, something that’s often overlooked in family businesses.

Leadership Skills Vs Technical Skills

In the corporate world, training programs abound that prepare future leaders to assume the mantle of responsibility. That’s usually not the case in a family business, where “training” may consist solely of gaining technical expertise, i.e., how to make widgets, failing to address the critical skill set required to engage and lead others in making widgets.

It’s not uncommon for owners to begin introducing their children to the family business at a young age, providing them with technical nuts and bolts and assuming they’ll be ready to lead at some point in the future. As a family business advisor, I always recommend that next-generation leaders of a family business begin their careers elsewhere, to gain education about leadership that will be invaluable down the line, but that doesn’t always happen.

A Leadership Development Plan

A great way for family businesses to support the leadership development needs of their future leaders is to hire a business executive coach. This external resource — someone who has significant experience working with family businesses — can be invaluable in ensuring that the members of the next generation have the strong voices that are necessary to get people to follow them.

Unlike coaches in the sports world, who help athletes be their best by teaching them on- and off-field skills, business executive coaches focus solely on ensuring that future leaders have the non-technical skills they need to be successful. These are often called “soft skills,” but there’s nothing warm and fuzzy about them. Since many people aren’t born leaders, and putting someone without leadership skills in charge can jeopardize a family business, the knowledge imparted by an expert coach is worth its weight in gold.

Identify Your Leadership Style

One of the most important things any leader must do is identify the type of leadership style that best suits them, but many people don’t have the ability to do that alone. Working with a business executive coach, future family business leaders can determine whether they want to be a leader who is:
·      Autocratic or authoritative
·      Delegative or laissez-faire
·      Participative or democratic leader

Once the decision about leadership style is made, it becomes clearer how to create a vision, determine values, and successfully influence others. It’s all about being intentional about leadership style, rather than following someone else’s lead or floundering to find the right voice.

Find the Right Business Executive Coach

How do you find the right business executive coach? It’s important that the person’s experience matches the needs of the family business and he/she is able to quickly develop rapport with family members. The best bet is to ask owners of other family businesses if they’ve had someone help them who they would recommend.

With the right coach on board, amazing progress in the area of leadership development is possible — and family businesses stand a better chance of surviving for the long term.

About Dr. Denise Federer:

Clinical psychologist and executive coach Dr. Denise P. Federer is the founder and principal of Federer Performance Management Group, LLC. As a family business advisor, Dr. Federer has extensive experience providing guidance to leading U.S. firms and their executives and in private practice as a psychotherapist to couples, families and individuals—an intense focus that has led to her interest and expertise in peak performance coaching and in the unique dynamics of closely held and family-owned businesses.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Next Generation of Leadership

The national election cycle is in full swing, and the world is watching the coming transition of leadership in the White House.  What about your organization?  Are you prepared for the critical leadership transitions that your business family will face in the not-so-distant future?

Successful transition planning for the next generation of leadership is more than just replacement planning. Too often, the plan is simply to name a backup person to fill in when a need arises or take over the position when the predecessor can’t do it anymore. This may work for covering an illness or vacation, but it will not prepare the business, the family, or the individual for future needs, responsibilities, or opportunities in a changing business climate.

There are a number of factors to consider in preparing the next generation of leadership:

1.     Roles and Responsibilities.  Accurately determine what roles and responsibilities are essential for the organization, difficult to replace, and will need to be transitioned in 5 – 10 years.

2.     Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities.  Define the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed in those positions both now and in the future.

3.     Current Talent Pool. Examine the current talent pool of individuals in the family and the business to understand potential options for future leadership.  Be sure to turn over every rock: there may be unrealized talent that has not been previously considered or has not had an opportunity to develop.

4.     Development.  Proactively prepare and develop the talent pool for future needs, responsibilities, and the changing business climate. A well-defined development plan can be an important tool in developing the next generation of leaders.  To be effective, development plans require thoughtful planning, diligence, and follow-through.

5.     Preparation.  Prepare the family and the business for the next generation to assume leadership. Help the future leaders earn the respect of the family, the business, and outside stakeholders.

Honestly discussing the critical issues facing families and family businesses in transition helps foster the objectivity and focus needed for long term success.  Successfully navigating the transition of leadership for both family members and key non-family members often means the difference between prematurely liquidating the business and creating a multi-generational family business legacy.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Family Business Values

Every family has values.  They may be spoken or unspoken. Some families live out their values more closely than others, but each family has a set of values. Though the world is ever-changing, a family’s core values should be constant.  It is these core values that influence attitudes, drive behavior and action.  It is who you are as a business family.

A “value” is a principle, standard, or quality considered intrinsically worthwhile or desirable. The root of value is valoir, which means ‘to be of worth’.  Values are also a source of strength because they give business families the power to take action. Values are deep and emotional, difficult to change and often unconscious.

Sometimes, people mistakenly think of values as a list of “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” guiding what they can or cannot do.  To the contrary, values are energizing, motivating, and inspiring. When people care passionately about something—in other words, value it—they can spur themselves to great achievements. The core values really are conscious motivators!

That doesn’t mean it is easy to just sit down and articulate the family values.  Documenting the family’s non-negotiable values takes collaboration and discussion. There are many ways to codify a business family’s values; however, simply identifying the values is more important than how you document them.  As the saying goes, ‘just do it.’  Engaging in a values dialogue should not create opposition in the family.  Rather, it should be an opportunity to experience the free flow of thoughts between family members to build a congruence of thoughts that will unite the family and strengthen the business.

Articulating these core values will influence a business family’s worldviews; competitiveness; beliefs about wealth and philanthropy; and how major decisions are made.

As Roy Disney said: “When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.”

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Why The Family Business?

A family member working in his family business was asked the question,
            “Why does your family business exist?”

The response was a long period of silence, followed by,
            “I never really thought about it.  It was always just here!”

If you were to stand at the door of your business and ask each family member and non-family employee that goes in and out of the business that question, how would they respond?

Why is this question so important?

As a business family – Why does your family business exist?

The definition of success in a business family may be in the eye of the beholder. The measure of success must be determined and agreed upon by all in the family and the business. When family members are able to share their thoughts, hopes, and dreams in a safe environment, the opportunity to increase family commitment, business growth, and build a family legacy will increase.

Why is your family in business together?  Is it just a way to pay bills? Is it to provide employment for all family members that need a job? Is it to harvest the business and cash out? Is it to build a family legacy with an entrepreneurial mindset? Is it to build a family legacy? Is it to pass the business to future generations?

Your family’s dialogue about these questions may be more important than the answers and can provide the basis for putting the pieces in place to building a lasting family legacy. Whether in the Entrepreneurial stage, the Sibling Partnership stage, or the Cousin Consortium stage, every business family must explore these questions and determine the needs for the next stage and for the family’s legacy.

As a business family, take the time and do the hard work dialoguing with your family to build your roadmap for the success of your family, the ownership group, and the business management.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Silos in a Family Business

On a farm, silos are a valuable structure for storing materials and protecting them from external threats.  Silos can also exist in business families. However, in a business family, silos are psychological and, at times, physical barriers used to store power and isolate something from the rest of the organization. Silos often are simply focusing on one’s self to the detriment of the family, the business, and a collaborative environment.  It could be in the context of multiple business divisions, or separate locations, or distinctly defined tasks that results in isolation.  These silos in a business family can have a number of detrimental consequences, including driving wedges between individuals, minimizing communication, and preventing collaboration.

There are no clear paths for the construction of these silos, nor are they built overnight. Silos don’t necessarily develop intentionally or from malicious intent. Operating in silos often happens gradually over time and can lead to individuals operating their own pieces of the business without input or collaboration with the rest of the business.  Sometimes, silos are a mechanism to avoid difficult conversations or address difficult relationship issues. They take shape over time and can result in mistrust and isolation.

Recognizing silos in the business family requires an understanding of what is happening in the short term and the long term.  Redundancy is one sign that you may have a silo problem. The redundancy of work, of decisions, of tasks, of discussions and of meetings might be a sign of silos. Another sign is difficulty in reaching a family member with needed information or knowledge – or just not understanding or knowing what someone else does.  Another sign is simply realizing that individuals are operating on their own without collaboration or input from the rest of the organization.

How do you break down silos? How do you keep silos from becoming fortresses?

First, recognize and admit that silos exist. You can’t begin addressing how to eliminate them until you admit they are there.  Then, begin exploring why the silos developed in the first place. Revisit the business family’s core values and realize that these core values are what will keep the family together and help eliminate the silos. In addition, commit to communicating with each other, and commit to open and honest evaluation as a family.

Keep silos from becoming fortresses. Appreciate the contributions of others.  Do the hard work of communicating, and provide grace, love, and forgiveness to each other on the journey of being a business family.

SKM Associates

advising and supporting Families in Business as they build their legacy

Contact SKM Associates
Phone: 215.256.5997

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Transitioning the Family Firm

Many family business owners hope that their children will one day take over the business. They dream of working side by side with the next generation. They often assume that the transition in leadership will happen naturally over time. However, hoping and dreaming about a future for the business, and assuming that day will come, won’t make it so. As baby boomers rapidly approach retirement, succession planning can no longer be kicked down the road to tackle another day. It is an all too common refrain to find business families that are not making concerted plans to transfer the family firm to the next generation. Beyond just an estate plan to transfer legal title to the business, building a business family legacy requires successfully transitioning from one generation to the next, and that transition takes hard work.

Business families frequently struggle – or even fail – when they do not address and actually talk about the longevity, the vision, and perpetuation of the business and commit those plans to writing. Talking with the next generations about the future, talking about a longer time horizon than Wall Street allows for publicly traded companies, and discussing adequate preparation and development of the next generation of leadership opportunities to both strengthen family relationships and strengthen the future leadership of the business.

Business families succeed when they are able to discuss the difficult issues, plan for the future, and work together as a cohesive unit in a unified structure. When the ownership is beyond the founder/entrepreneur and consists of a sibling group or a cousin consortium, there is even greater opportunity for misaligned expectations, misunderstanding, and conflict. The dialogue required for this planning is not always comfortable or easy. The discussions need to address, among other things, business goals, business management, ownership, and shareholder expectations.

Even with the best transition plan in place, however, the plan must be executed. A defined transition plan should be flexible enough to deal with both current issues and future issues, and yet detailed enough to provide meaningful guidance for both generations. Both generations need to execute the plan with a focus on the present and striving toward a vision of the future.

Creating a collaborative environment between generations can strengthen relationships and allow the family to capitalize on their financial, human, social, and intellectual capital. Having a plan in place and the ability to discuss and implement the plan with the family will help you in setting the foundation for building a multi-generational family legacy.

SKM Associates

advising and supporting Families in Business as they build their legacy

Contact SKM Associates
Phone: 215.256.5997

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A Family Affair

“It’s not personal, it’s just business.”  It’s usually not true in life generally, and it’s true even less in family businesses.

Family businesses have many competitive advantages: strength of relationships, cultural fit of family members, shared faith and values, strong commitment of those involved, strong work ethic of family members, patient capital, and flexibility in hard times.

However, at times, family relationships and the needs of the business can come into conflict. The personal relationships of families in business bring an added level of complexity. It is during those times that the business leadership and the family leadership must understand what is to be accomplished and why. Each stakeholder may want to accomplish something different, either from a business perspective or from a family perspective. In navigating these situations, individuals play different roles at different times: parent, child, cousin, founder, owner, president, shareholder, employee.

It is important to understand which role is being played in which context. The contexts vary, such as how will the next generation of leadership be developed? Will the leadership of the business stay in the family? If so, which branch of the family? Should a certain family member be hired (or promoted)? Individuals in different roles may have different understandings of the goals and objectives. The ability to know through which lens one is approaching an issue requires sensitivity to the perspectives of different roles.

Many business families try to navigate these complexities on their own.  Many times that works, but there are also times when support from a neutral third party with expertise in organizational and interpersonal dynamics can be invaluable. Someone to provide unbiased feedback and to approach the issues objectively. Someone to help lay a framework for stakeholders to have positive and healthy communication.

In a business family, it’s almost always personal, too.  To maintain business prosperity and family harmony, assistance from an impartial third party can be invaluable.  Tough times don’t need to be divisive for the family or the business.  Keeping it a family affair should be fun and rewarding.

SKM Associates

advising and supporting Families in Business as they build their legacy

Contact SKM Associates
Phone: 215.256.5997

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

It Doesn't Need To Be That Way

“Shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves in three generations.”
- American saying

“The father buys, the son builds, the grandchild sells, and his son begs.”
- Scottish proverb

“Clogs to clogs.”
- A Lancashire proverb from the 1600s

“Rice patty to rice patty.”
- Asian proverb

 “Father, founder of the company, son rich, and grandson poor.”
- Mexican saying (translated)

Across generations and across cultures, the sentiment is the same: family businesses and family wealth don’t make it into the third and fourth generations.  Statistics on family business only reinforce the adages: only 12% of family businesses will continue operating into the third generation and only 3% of family businesses will continue into the fourth generation.  It doesn’t need to be that way.

            Every business faces challenges to successful, long term operations.  For the countless strengths and opportunities giving family businesses a competitive advantage, business families face unique challenges in setting up the business and the family to be successful for generations to come.  There is no magic checklist or fill-in-the blank formula, but there are things business families can do:

·      All family members participate in defining the core values for the family and the business
·      Create an environment of open, clear, and direct communication
·      Develop clear policies and business norms for family members
·      Clearly define the roles and responsibilities in the business
·      Have a plan, in writing, for the transition of the business to the next generation
·      Establish a fair and equitable exit strategy for those not interested in the business
·      Help each family member internalize the vision for the family and the business

            Involving all family members in addressing these issues can help improve the odds of success for future generations and nurturing the family legacy. 

            It’s not too late to get started. 

SKM Associates

advising and supporting Families in Business as they build their legacy

235 Yoder Road • Harleysville, PA 19438 • 215-256-5997