Meeting the family members and any other players is not by any means the first step of a new consulting opportunity. Most likely you have spent time researching and there have been phone and email exchanges well before it is time to shake hands and make eye contact. Yes—those were the good old days. Changes in procedures and protocols have been necessary to continue our consulting in the time of Covid.

Business Issues Cannot Wait For A Vaccine

I have had to make some big adjustments in my consulting practice, as I am sure everyone has. I am sure it has been a challenge for both sides. Think about the managing family member. How does she/he bring in an outsider to help right the family ship when there has been no intimate, face-to-face first encounter? It is already difficult to discuss family dysfunction, and a consultant is there because they need help. If everything was rosy, it is likely you might not have ever met.

I am grateful for video conferencing. It is somewhat of an unnatural setting since the speakers are obviously miles apart physically. You have your backdrop; they have their backdrop. Both are probably dressed as if it is an in-person meeting, but how can there be a spark of Sympatico, even with the miracle of electronics? I still study the face, listen to the voice, and try to pick up this new person’s nuanced mannerisms. These are all pieces of the puzzle I have been contracted to put together to reveal a complete and hopefully more beautiful scenario.

Meeting And Learning About All The Players

It has always been my practice to meet all the players individually before we begin family engagements. Again, no handshake, no eye contact. The days seem a little longer having these meetings via Zoom than they seemed when we could meet in person. I still have much to ponder at the end of a day of initial meetings. My first meetings are for getting to know each family member as a person, without knowing how this person fits into the current family business dynamic. A business title can imply duties and responsibilities, but I have learned that in each family business a title can include and exclude many traditional and non-traditional demands.

My years-in-the-making process is not unlike going to the theater to see a play. I know the title and I may have heard something about the plot. The curtain goes up, the stage is set, and the cast will animate and begin to interact. The big difference is, of course, that I can change the course of events from act to act, and I can change the ending because I am there in person. With a deadly pandemic, however, it is more like watching a drama on TV and having to email the network. It is not my ideal situation but sitting out until it is safer to travel is not an option.

We Will Keep Rolling As The Punches Keep Coming

Finding a way to stay productive is an intriguing goal. I have observed that it can take some extra coaching to persuade others that it is okay to keep trying to move forward. Let us focus on those things we can control and keep doing what we know can be effective. I have more thoughts on this topic and would love to hear yours.

David Bork is an internationally acclaimed family business consultant, author, and speaker with five decades of experience, providing guidance to over 500 family business enterprises. A pioneer in the industry, David brings a wealth of knowledge and insight into the many challenges of running a successful family business and has assisted families in navigating their way through every imaginable family business issue. He is the author of The Little Red Book of Family Business and the online course, Re-Imagining Relationships for Families in Business. For more information about David Bork, visit FamilyBusinessMatters.Consulting.