Monday, April 27, 2020

Time To Plan

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…”
                        Ecclesiastes 3:1

Family businesses are straddling rebuilding a successful business today while planning for a future that will require different skills. This is where strategic thinking and planning is essential. Virtual and digital disruption are at the heart of each family, family business, and privately held enterprise.

What makes planning in uncertain times so difficult for so many business families runs the gamut: the fear of the unknown; the business may be forced to close; cash flow is reduced or nonexistent; the business is struggling and leadership fears the ability to get it back on track; indecision in choosing or creating a plan; psychological and emotional connections that paralyze the family, leaders, and employees. 

The family needs a vision. What will success look like for the business on the other side of this crisis?  What does success look like for the family?  Your identity and core values are bigger than the business and bigger than its success or failure. Second, the family needs to work through how each family member, leader, or employee wants to or will be involved (or not) in accomplishing the plan. Are family members and employees qualified for the new roles that will be required?  What strengths do family members bring to the table to help maximize and manage the family’s and the business resources?  Finally, as you go out and execute the recovery plan, remember to be flexible.  Part of what will make the business successful is executing a plan but staying flexible to adapt as you go. Define what a successful plan looks like and begin charting a path to get there.

So how does the family business leadership turn values like loyalty, hard work, and vision into a plan for success? We see several strategic moves ahead to consider in building a plan for overcoming issues:

1.     Write down / codify your values and purpose into the plan. Draft a written plan of recovery, along with a timeline for execution. This is where your family business has a competitive edge, take it to the next step.
2.     Ensure family, leadership, and employees are deeply involved. They have a lot to offer the business grappling with rebuilding from the disruption. 
3.     Determine the skill sets needed for the future. Raising the ‘Digital IQ’ of the business is closely entwined with raising digital capabilities of existing workforce and determining future skill sets.  
4.     Implement a feedback mechanism. It is important to monitor the progress toward plan and adapt with proper intervention as needed.
5.     Form a team of professional advisors.  By bringing in independent advisors and board members with external expertise the leadership will also gain unbiased monitoring of the plan. 

It’s not too late to get started planning.  Doing nothing is not really an option.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

It Is Inevitable – Conflict In The Family

There is no such thing as a family business without conflict at some point. What is the cause of conflict in a family business?

Though there is not one answer to that question for every situation or family business, we believe, based on our experience, the source of much conflict is misaligned expectations.

Each family member brings his or her own thoughts, ideas, experiences, definitions, interpretations, and perceptions. In many situations, there is an assumption that others just know what we mean, and we move forward acting on our own definitions or interpretations. These families take the greatest hits when change is necessary, or a critical decision must be made.

Because every family is going to have conflict, what is a family to do?

-       Who you talk to is as important as what you say. Avoid Triangulation.

-       As a family and as a business, consciously work on developing a culture of conflict resolution. Individually focus on developing conflict resolution skills.

-       Work on the correct issue. Refrain from piling on with incorrect data or with issues from the past.

-       Handle the right problem with the right person. 

-       Establish appropriate boundaries. Establish a balance between work life and family life.

-       Be an example with your own communication. Practice good communication. Be quick to listen and slow to speak. 

-       Seek help. As a member of the family enterprise, find a coach to support you and your family in developing healthy communication habits and breaking the communication triangulation and cycle of conflict.


Only by addressing conflict directly will the cycle end. Families and their enterprises cannot thrive where communication habits undermine trust and credibility.  Conflict is inevitable, but how you handle it is not.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Now More Than Ever

In a business family, boundaries, though often mental structures or commitments, are as real as tangible fences. Boundaries establish one thing in relationship to another. They are a line between where one ends and the other begins. Boundaries draw lines regarding what is acceptable and what is unacceptable within the family and the enterprise.  Boundaries help family members balance personal and professional obligations; maintain family bonds; and develop emotionally and psychologically throughout their lives. 

In this era of social distancing, boundaries are being defined as six feet. This is important for us to maintain the physical health of our families, our staff, our customers, clients, and society. This distancing while critical, can also lead to a feeling of isolation, loneliness, and depression. It is critical for leaders of the family and leaders of the business to recognize the needs of each individual.

For each leader, it is important to pay attention to what is appropriate, inhibit what is not relative and destructive, and be conscious of what everyone needs to know or do. In these times, is critical for the leader to be creative and attentive to helping family members, employees and staff connect.

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

There are many ways to work at staying connected. Phone calls. Emails. Text messages. Conference calls. Zoom Meetings. Video conferences. Skype. We need to be in constant communication to help everyone feel connected. Now more than ever, over communicate.

As a leader, create the environment, experiences, and opportunities where your family and business can attend to each other, innovate for the business, create new ways of doing things, and look to the future.

Monday, April 6, 2020

We Are In A Crisis What Does It Take To Lead A Family Business

 Leading a successful family business through unprecedented times requires a clear understanding of positive family relationships and a clear understanding of business relationships (known as employees, management, vendors, and customers).

During these uncertain times, positive family relationships do not occur by accident or by just thinking positive thoughts. Some debate whether positive relationships are the result of focusing on ‘quality’ vs. ‘quantity’ of time spent. We all now have a quantity of time. To keep positive relationships requires intentionality. How do you do that?

  1. Commit to the focus needed to guide the family and business. It is easy to become distracted or distraught.
  2. Keep the balance between your individual needs, the family needs and the business needs. You need to do self-care so you can care for the family and the business.
  3. Commit to enjoy activities together as a family.
  4. Maintain the balance between personal and interpersonal privacy.
  5. Remember, you won’t have all the answers.
  6. Use this time to learn as a family how to have the difficult conversations and still love each other.
  7. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Be open, be honest, be truthful with your family, your employees, and your business. If you are not able to be face-to-face, use the phone, Skype, Zoom, SMS.
  8. Commit to providing grace, love, and support.
  9. Leadership can be lonely. Utilize the support networks you have, your family council, your Advisory Board, your Board of Directors, your management team, your friends, and your advisors.
  10. Eat well, sleep well, exercise, lean in on your faith.

It is in these times family business leaders are called upon to provide strong leadership with a sense of hope. Cast the vision.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

We Are Living In Uncertain And Challenging Times

If you are like me, you have been inundated with emails on how to deal with COVID-19. 

At times, in times like these, we all need someone to think out loud with, just vent to, have someone ask reflective questions, or seek a different unbiased thought. 

We want to be able to support you if one of those needs are yours.  
This is a way we believe we can support our community in these trying times.

Feel free to email, Skype, or call, these conversations are all on us and between us.

Let us know 

Steven K. Moyer
SKM Associates LLC