One of the most frequent questions I get from others in the family business consulting profession is “how did you get started?“ That question never gets old because I attribute my 50+ years of success to my choice of a remarkable foundation. In 1968 when I started, my friend Dr. A. M. Powell (a child psychiatrist) suggested I might want to take a look at the work of Dr. Murray Bowen at Georgetown. That advice led me to what would become the bedrock for my practice. I was quite young when I started; every professional starts somewhere, though. Look thoughtfully and carefully for the bedrock of your practice. That choice can serve you well for your own half-century in the business.

Naming Your Business And Adapting As The Years Add To Your Expertise

I founded my consulting business, CODA Corporation, in 1968. CODA is an acronym for Community and Organizational Development Associates. It is also a musical term meaning that section introduced in composition to bring about the resolution of the work. Through the years the name of my business has moved through various iterations. Today it is dba Family Business Matters ( I mention the double entendre of the musical term because, unbeknownst to me at the time, the application of the Bowen Family Systems Theory in a family enterprise would become a key factor in my work to resolve complex family business matters. The Bowen Family Systems theory is indeed a coda.

Expect To Always Be Learning As You Go

Do not categorize this integral instruction as some pleasant-but-trite platitude. I had been trained in organization development, business behavior, and group dynamics. I did not set out to be knowledgeable about families in business, but it happened because of my innate curiosity about how all things work. Throughout my business career, when I didn’t know something, I would engage professionals to teach me. Over the years I have engaged attorneys, accountants, psychologists, psychiatrists, and others to teach me what I did not know. But stay humble! Remember that knowledge and understanding are never static or finite. As any martial arts master will remind you: one never reaches the apex of skill. No one can ever “know it all.“ All things evolve continuously. If you become complacent–it will cost you.

Coming Up In The Next Few Blogs . . .

Stick with me for a bit if you will. I want to walk you through my first family business challenge and show you how the application of the Bowen Family Systems Theory can be so useful to your practice. Yes, families are just people. But a family dynamic can take on a fierce life of its own. They may fight each other with an intense ruthlessness, but woe unto you if they halt their infighting to unite and turn on the person they have asked to help them figure things out. (Think Succession, Empire, or even Game of Thrones.) Knowing about family systems can help you navigate dangerous emotional rapids as you work to keep a family business together.

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.