Tuesday, February 9, 2016
“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.
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