Family Business

Finding the Right Amount of Family Business Conflict

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Being a family enterprise advisor (FEA) allows me to work with business families in a special capacity as trusted advisor for the family. An area I see frequently is inner family conflict and, if not dealt with quickly, can be destructive for the family and business. As a FEA, I have access to a lot of material and colleagues that can help with family conflict as well family governance and transition. A great read is:

Why Family Businesses Need to Find the Right Level of Conflict
– Josh Baron of Banyan Global Family Business Advisors

Josh’s article talks about the Goldilocks Syndrome, of either having too much conflict in the family business or non at all. “But here’s a three-part quiz you can use to get the conversation started about whether your family enterprise is in the Goldilocks Zone:

  1. Is there general satisfaction with the direction of the family enterprise? You may not be happy about every aspect, but if someone asked you if you were “better together than apart”, you would answer with an unequivocal “yes”.
  2. Are decisions about critical issues being made? You may not address every single point of disagreement, but everyone would agree that there is no “elephant in the room.”
  3. Are family relationships good enough to work and celebrate together? You don’t have to be best friends to own significant assets together. Instead, you have to be good business partners, which means you are aligned on the big issues and can enjoy each other’s company, at least most of the time.

“Last year, a friend forwarded me a picture he took of a can of Sierra Nevada beer. On the top of it is the line, “FAMILY OWNED, OPERATED & ARGUED OVER.” I have seen many businesses brand themselves around their family ownership, but this was the first I have seen to include conflict in that description. Ken Grossman, Sierra Nevada’s founder, says, “It’s funny, but it’s the truth. We can get together and argue over what’s best for us as a company moving forward, but we all do it in good faith, knowing that everyone wants what’s best overall.”

If you can say something similar about your family enterprise, there’s a good chance you have found the Goldilocks Zone of conflict. If not, you may find yourself in the same position as the Alexanders. Throughout the years, tempers would begin to flare – not because there was too much disagreement, but because important decisions were avoided rather than dealing with potential disagreement. Eventually, the family decided to sell the company rather than tackle any disagreements that would threaten to disrupt family harmony, such as how to transition the business to the third generation. Unfortunately, the issues that were unaddressed did not go away because the business was sold – historical grievances remained, with new ones emerging from those who opposed the sale. And without the business to keep them together, the family started to drift apart. Five years later, many family members looked back on the sale as a mistake. Both the business and the close relationships were now gone.

No one aims to have conflict within a business – and even worse, within a family. But some conflict is actually healthy. It provides a chance to clear the air of lingering resentments, potential issues, and even find a productive process for disagreeing and still making decisions. Good conflict doesn’t have to destroy a family—managed well, it can make the bonds even stronger.

Original article here:

Tough Times for Many Company Leaders

Here is an article published in the October 2020 issue of Seaside magazine, written by Mike Smyth of WDS Capital. Mike is colleague and friend of mine. Mike’s specialty is looking inside the company and pairs well with Fischer Financial’s specialty of looking at the gaps between the company and personal planning.

“These are stressful times for most business owners and staff, but especially for those operating in mainstream businesses like hotels, busing, airlines, restaurants, movie theatres, medical clinics, etc.
We all know friends whose businesses face lower sales and more cautious staff and customers, plus deal with new online disruptive business apps or e-commerce enabled websites attacking the way our mature companies do business. Then there’s the critical need for each of us to use online Zoom communications or similar to connect with suppliers and customers …” continue reading on Seaside Magazine

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Please stay safe and stay healthy.

Vern Fischer