The single most important issue in family business, above all the other important ones, is boundaries. Failure to establish and adhere to proper boundaries is the cause of more disruption than any other issue.
I’ve spent some time looking back on a half-century career of working with families in business, and 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.
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. 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.”
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. 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. I acknowledge it is time for me to take what I have learned over my years in family business consulting and make it available in an online course. 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. My online course includes not only what I have learned first-hand from all my years of work, but it also includes supporting research to help understand why things may happen the way they do, and how to make lasting changes to prevent future obstacles.
Top Ten Family Business Facts | Fact #2: The Cluster Model Helps Capture the Evolution of Your Family Business Over Time
Traditionally, family businesses are described as constituent of three overlapping circles: 1) the family, 2) the business, and 3) the ownership (Gersick, Davis, McCollom Hampton, & Lansberg, 1997; Tagiuri & Davis, 1996). Recently, Michael-Tsabari, Labaki, & Zachary (2014) suggested the Cluster Model to update the two and three-circle models by providing a more detailed picture of the circles’ evolution over time.
“Far from declining, family firms will remain an important feature of global capitalism for the foreseeable future, argues Adrian Wooldridge.” So begins a recent special report on family businesses published by The Economist.
A successful family business must be poised to prosper for many generations to come. A quick list of necessary items needed to create a successful family business include: alignment on important matters, a shared vision for the company, a detailed action plan, a family constitution, a shareholder agreement, a responsible owner and an official employment policy.
Writing a letter that expresses business advice from the leader of a family business to the successors of the business is an excellent method for examining what is truly important. This exercise allows the family business leader to reflect on the values of the family, review past challenges and provide invaluable family business advice that will provide beneficial guidance.
Trust in family business is a critical issue. Strong relationships which are based on trust and communication build equality and respect - not power and control. Trust can be built, measured, tested and repaired. It is a way of reducing uncertainty in interpersonal and organizational settings and is necessary for cohesive and productive professional relationships.