Family Dynamics: Some Things Don’t Change Much

Addressing the questions about how I got started in consulting family businesses, I did notice that there was one subject that was a part of every story: family dynamics. Making the study of family dynamics should be a part of the bedrock of everyone’s practice, with a special nod to the work of Dr. Murray Bowen. I was so fortunate to have been steered in his direction early in my career.

Add To Your Formal Education By Tapping Into The Experience Of Others

I was trained in organization development, business behavior, and group dynamics. I didn’t set out to be knowledgeable about families in business, but it happened because of an innate curiosity about how all things work. Throughout my career when I didn’t know something, I would engage professionals to teach me. I have learned from attorneys, accountants, engineers, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists—all worth every minute invested in listening and every penny spent for the time.

My First Family Business Client

My first client was three businesses, all interlocked by long relationships among the owners.

  • Business One: owned by a widow and her two sons, A and B. In that business was a non-related controller, C.
  • Business Two: owned by another widow with one son, D. In that business was an older gentleman, FR, who served as “family retainer,” holding the business together.
  • Business Three: owned by A + B + C + D + FR.

D had a severe and permanent congenital problem. He was dumb as a rock. I know that sounds harsh, but it was a significant factor. He had roomed with B in prep school, then with A in college until he (D) flunked out. The stated task was to merge the three businesses into one.

Please Keep In Mind That I Was 31 Years Of Age And Just Starting My […]

Every Professional Starts Somewhere: Choosing Your Practice Bedrock

I attribute my 50+ years of success to my choice of a remarkable foundation. Look thoughtfully and carefully for the bedrock of your practice. That choice can serve you well for your own half-century in the business.

Here Are Four “A” Words To Be “A”ware Of

I’d like to share what I have seen as the four most prevalent character situations that can cause successful executives to self-destruct after great achievements. Here are four “A” words to be “a”ware of.

The Bowen Theory Was A Turning Point For Me

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.

Stop The Family Argument By Deciding How To Order Dinner

Everyone has heard about arguments in Family Business.  Relatives in the business are all together to make key decisions. Two are deadlocked in a toe-to-toe shout-down with one saying, “I’m right!” and the other resolutely insisting “No, I’m right!” Perhaps yet another is trying to jump in with “Look at my idea!” The meeting agenda has dissolved into a process of Ready! Fire! Aim!

There is a tried and true way to end this, and here is an example. We are a group of five colleagues working together. We need to have dinner but would like to continue our work. One colleague asks the others, “What does everyone want to eat?” Instead of naming restaurants, they listened to all comments and agreed on the following:

  1. Must be suitable to continue our conversation over dinner, so that rules out a noisy place.
  2. Must be within 3 miles radius, so we don’t lose momentum in our progress.
  3. Must be able to seat five guests at 7 p.m., since that time suits everyone present.
  4. Must have selections on the menu that will satisfy one person who is mostly vegetarian.

Notice that there is not high “ownership” for any of the criteria.  After we do a quick survey of restaurants nearby, soon one or two stand out.

The operative word is ownership. So often in family business differences are grounded in whose idea is being discussed rather than what is the idea. In the Little Red Book of Family Business it says, “An Idea doesn’t care who has it.  It (the idea) has no opinion on the bearer thereof.” It is preferable to establish the criteria and then list the range of options that might be worthy of consideration. Each option is measured against the criteria, not against who proposed the idea. By eliminating the attachment to […]

Reduce Anxiety During This Crisis For Your Family Business

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.

The Bowen Theory Was A Turning Point For Me

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.

Step 1: Alignment And Core Values–You First

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.

Takeaways From Strategic Management Society’s Meeting In Paris

family business, consulting

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 […]

It’s My Life’s Work—And It’s Time To Share It

family business, consulting New online course now available

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. […]

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This Is A Custom Widget

This Sliding Bar can be switched on or off in theme options, and can take any widget you throw at it or even fill it with your custom HTML Code. Its perfect for grabbing the attention of your viewers. Choose between 1, 2, 3 or 4 columns, set the background color, widget divider color, activate transparency, a top border or fully disable it on desktop and mobile.