Your job managing the family business did not come with a crystal ball. But now, you are getting calls and emails from family members, employees, vendors, suppliers, city officials, the local press, and never-before-heard-from stakeholders about what is going to happen to the enterprise that supports so many. Let me give you a proven solution: appoint an Ombudsman.
I have always enjoyed the mission of learning the “hows” and the “whys” of family dynamics, especially when it involves a family in business together, and that curiosity was what led me to the work of Dr. Murray Bowen.
There has been a lot in the news lately about “invading personal space,” and I really get why that is so important. Boundaries are a defining concept for every successful family business I’ve ever worked with, and it’s the second of my supporting pillars in my online course, Re-Imaging Relationships For Families In Business. American poet Robert Frost noted that “good fences make good neighbors,” and I would add that good boundaries make good working relationships between family members.
In the nuclear family, usually parents and their children, or perhaps at some point just the siblings, there are relationships that have been developing since birth. Opinions about strengths and weaknesses have been forming for decades, and there are no secrets (usually) about escapades from anyone’s younger days. Normally by the time family members are working together as adults in a legacy business, they have already interacted with each other for decades within the intimacy of the family unit.
The family business must not become a metaphor for family.
Protocols must be different for work talk and family talk. The same is true for behaviors. If a bossy older sister has spent her life picking up projects abandoned by her younger brother, then she will continue to do this in the family business. This will result in the same resentment levels experienced by both siblings as this dynamic has occurred over the years. The family leader must know how to set the boundaries between sibling responsibilities, and preferably with minimum risk to overall business progress. The leader must also know how to arbitrate when boundaries are disregarded. Perhaps that’s easier when a parent is running things, but when a sibling takes over as leader, he/she better be strong enough to insist on a) hands off someone else’s job and b) maybe job boundaries […]
As mentioned in the last blog, we all know that alignment starts with the family leader (presumably you!) In Lesson 2, Pillar 1 of my self-study course, Re-Imagining Relationships For Families In Business, you went through the exercise of writing down your own core values, and giving thought to your own code of ethics. Now you know the direction you want to lead family members who also participate in the legacy family business. Lesson 3 addresses how to align your family and how to deal with any members who are not eager to jump onto the same page as the others.
Something I know for sure: anything attempted without alignment is unlikely to be long-lasting. After 50+ years of working with families, I can say that this is a lesson I’ve seen learned in the hardest of ways. As the family leader, you might dread some parts of the exercises used to discover and distill your family members’ values. Still, you must all agree on the “how-to” before you can implement an agenda of growth and sustainability. I recommend a family alignment model called Values-Based Leadership.
What Is Values-Based Leadership?
Values-Based Leadership (VBL) is defined by The Financial Times as, “motivating employees by connecting organizational goals to employees’ personal values.” In Re-Imagining Relationships, I make these four key points:
• Values precede ethics, and ethics precede performance.
• Foundational values guide decision making.
• VBL is statistically proven to deliver excellent results over long periods of time.
• VBL can be the foundation of a corporate climate that delivers predictable and sustainable results.
If you and your family agree to operate under a Values-Based Leadership model, then your “core values represent the soul of the organization, and they are likely to remain steadfast in the face of changing market trends and fads.” (Pillar 1, Lesson 3.)
Now, on the […]
Alignment is how learning to resolve family issues begins, and this is how my self-study course, Re-Imagining Relationships For Families In Business begins. My use of the concept of alignment is meant to be a 3D acceptance of your basic core values.
I have worked 50+ years consulting in family business matters, and I recognize the clues when family members begin the process of working on “the issues.” “The issues” vary, of course, but there can turning points when a family business needs an outside opinion, maybe some suggestions, to resolve painful or contentious situations. For those family leaders who would like to do some groundwork, I’ve created an online course called Re-Imagining Relationships For Families In Business. This is a distillation of what I have seen and worked with over the length of my career. I know for sure that the relationships within the family business dynamic (or any business dynamic, for that matter) are the key to sustaining the legacy of success.
These Four Pillars Support A Successful Platform
The lessons around each of the 4 Pillars include exercises and supplemental resources to help family leaders, or the upcoming family leaders, understand and incorporate the key takeaways from each concept. Pillar 1 is all about Alignment. Right off the bat there is an exercise in values clarification because a leader must begin with what he (or she) knows about himself/herself. Then his job is to learn where the rest of the family is with their values. Once all have agreed on a values statement for the business, then they can move on to Pillar 2, which is about Boundaries. Anyone who grew up with siblings already knows that personal space is an issue that begins with the very young. (Mom! Make (brother or sister) get out of my room! Or move over in the car. Or stop playing with my toys, etc.)
Boundaries should be addressed right away when sorting out how to best get the family business moving together towards success. Oldest child may feel she should be able to step […]
It’s been a year of introspection for me, and I’ve spent some time looking back on a half-century career of working with families in business. This thought-work was how I knew to structure my recently released online course, Re-Imagining Relationships for Families In Business. Having to first distill, then organize those principles that I know for sure get results when working with legacy business families took me quite a long way down memory road. I see that, when those involved realized the overall impact of family businesses in global terms, then our consulting and support profession really gained depth and structure.
Nowhere were such changes more dramatically evident than at the recent FFI annual conference in London. The photo you see was taken there, and I have dubbed it “The Stalwarts.” Left to right, it’s Dirk Junge, James Olan Hutcheson, and me. We have all been involved with FFI since its inception, and we were doing the family business consulting work before there were official societies to support it. I’m seeing fewer and fewer of the more senior players in the Fam Biz orbit at these get-togethers, but Dirk, James, and I are still showing up.
In London I was pleased to see a large group of Spanish-speaking participants, and an equally large group of attendees from the Middle East. FFI is now a truly international association of like-minded professionals. I give Judy Green credit for making this happen. I would gauge the majority median age range at the global conference to be 35 – 50, and I think they could have benefited if more of the original seminal thinkers in our profession were there to mingle and to answer questions. That’s a reason I keep attending.
I’ve always believed that change is good and in fact, our ability to change is pivotal […]
I’ve been enjoying the lull between the Strategic Management Society Annual Conference in Paris in late September and the Family Firm Institute Global Conference, set to kick off next week on October 24 in London. It’s always so stimulating to get together with like-minded people who share common interests and to hear like-minded people who maybe have other views of topics that I feel strongly about. Our profession should be about learning and sharing, and about meeting new players and greeting old friends and colleagues.
And speaking of such, recently there was an historic meeting, at my invitation, between some of the best minds and leading family business consultants. We met in Paris, post SMS. I got to spend time with Peter May, of Peter May Family Business Consulting (Bonn, GR) and his partners Karen May and Dr. Arno Lehmann-Tolkmitt, Velitchka Hristova, Executive at Bank Gutmann (Vienna) and an associate at Family Business Matters Consulting, and Samuel Maldonado, also an associate at Family Business Matters Consulting.
The focus of the meeting was to better understand each firm’s protocol for consulting with family-owned enterprise and to explore possibilities for future collaboration. Both Peter and I are very passionate about family enterprise, and we both seek to serve in the best ways possible. The conclusion was that combining aspects of our respective methodologies has great potential for even better results in our consultative processes.
Peter and I will meet for two days in December to expand the reciprocal understanding of our methods, and the specifics about their application. Our recent coming together was also time spent laughing and exchanging stories and enjoying each other’s company. This is one of my favorite kind of days, and to spend it in beautiful Paris was a bonus. Now I am looking forward to chatting with and listening to […]
It’s an irresistible combination: the SMS Annual Meeting (September 22-25), and it’s in Paris, so here I am. The meeting brought together some 1200 people, about 90% of whom have PhDs in some aspect of planning, and everyone with an interest in sustaining successful family businesses.
From the program: “Family businesses are a prevalent form of organization in most of the world’s economies . . . The aim . . . is to identify and reflect on critical questions regarding latest developments in the field of strategy . . . and specifically related to trends such as digitalization, demographic change, and political tendencies of protectionism.” The Sunday session panel chairs were Fabian and George Tovstiga, both of the prestigious EDHEC Business School (Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales du Nord.) The panelists were Ludovic Cailluet, EDHEC, Nadine Kammerland, WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management, Carlo Salvato, Bocco ni University (and also Vice President of FFI.)
What I want to say is that in my experience, much of the research is focused on what conditions do or do not exist in family businesses. I believe there should be more focus on what actions might be taken by family business consultants to improve overall operations. That’s always been my motivator in working with the over 500 families during my 50- year career. “I hear you. I see your issues. Now let’s do something to change them.”
Many of my peers are also interested in seeing new research be more in the arena of practical applications rather than just esoteric concepts and constructs. Our panel later that week in Paris was more centered on the gap between researchers and practitioners, and we discussed the need for greater dialogue between the groups.
It’s always exhilarating to spend time with […]
In early 2018, in the deep winter of the Rocky Mountains, I sat down to write about what I’ve done for a living for the last 50 years. Yes, 50 years. For the last 5 decades I have worked to help families in business grow, prosper, stay together, keep the love, and pass the torch when the time comes. When I started, there were not many people who could be called in to help a family that was both in business together and in crisis. Now there are college courses in family business management being taught in major universities and there are family business consulting firms all over the world.
I have traveled extensively in this profession, and I treasure the friends I have made and the colleagues I continue to work with in all the various countries. Over the last few years, I observed how the world has changed and how people can now learn about whatever topics they find interesting and/or necessary by just booting up their computers. I acknowledged it was time for me to take what I have learned over my years in family business consulting and make it available in an online course.
On Thursday, September 13, I made a presentation to the Tulane University Family Business Center, and I announced that my new online course is now available. Re-Imagining Relationships For Families In Business takes the learner through what I know to be the Concepts, Methods, and Techniques That Can Work Miracles.
Successful families make a commitment to build and maintain healthy and functional family relationships that further the goals of the family business. Such a platform for success is anchored on these 4 Pillars: Alignment, Boundaries, Communications, and Competency. […]