the family business

“If minutes were kept of a family gathering, they would show that “Members not Present” and “Subjects Discussed” were one and the same.” ~Robert Brault

You can’t choose your family, but you can choose whether to go into business with them.

Family businesses can simultaneously be either richly rewarding or extremely challenging. A family business faces the same business issues as any company faces—and family members deal with the same partnership pitfalls as any business partnership. Add to these factors, all the different family dynamics including sibling rivalry, parent/child perspectives and husband/wife relationships, and well…you get the picture.

Now add to that, discussions around preexisting family roles, relationships and personal dynamics. Is there a sibling who is treated as the “baby” of the family or an oldest adult child who is used to calling the shots? What is the parent/child dynamic in the family? Is there a “black sheep” in the family that Mom and Dad insist have equal shares and say-so in the business? Will there be spousal or in-law influence? If your business partner is your spouse, where will you draw the boundaries between business and marriage?

Even if you do the work upfront and agree on all of the important issues, keeping a partnership healthy and growing requires ongoing and consistent effort. I recommend all business partnerships hold regular partner meetings and the same holds true for family businesses. These are usually called Family Council meetings and they are most effective if facilitated by an outside family business consultant.

Having an outside Board of Directors or Advisory Board is another effective tool for minimizing conflict in a family business. The objective, third party perspective is often all it takes to calm the waters and get agreement on a contentious issue.

Any breakup of a business partnership is painful and costly. The consequences for conflict in a family business are magnified a hundred fold. It’s one thing to lose your business partner. It’s another to lose your relationship with your family.

Barri’s Partnership Insights

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