Family Business Services Overview
The challenges and opportunities facing each family business are unique. Each family – and each family member – has their own needs and interests. External forces that any business faces are compounded in a family owned or operated business. Balancing the different forces and keeping the business on track while maintaining family harmony is never easy.
It helps to have an impartial, experienced professional to guide you through the pitfalls, and to guide you. That’s where we come in.
Conflict is a normal part of human relationships – it has been said that no relationship exists without conflict. In fact, in many ways conflict is how we grow as people. One common paradigm positions five methods of dealing with conflict: avoid, abandon, compete, compromise and collaborate. Each has its place and time. But one thing is for sure, time does not heal all wounds and unresolved conflict remains a pink elephant in the room. Families need to learn how to embrace and resolve conflict in a positive light.
What is the decision that needs to be made, and whose decision is it? The corollary is: How will they decide? Is there an executive team, board of directors, advisory board, family council, or any other decision making group? How are they empowered and what are they empowered to do? If there are multiple decision making groups, how do they interact? Without a clear road map of the decision tree there is likely to be ambiguity and confusion leading to conflict. Family firms need to have clear definition of how the business is governed and how the family interacts with the business.
Far too often business families believe that the ownership transfer constitutes “succession.” It couldn’t be further from the truth. If you owned the majority of a publicly traded company, and you sold all of your stock, would that constitute succession for the company? More like turmoil, I would suspect. Ownership and management needs to be firmly defined and separated – both during normal periods as well as periods of succession. Many businesses fail because they don’t address the management succession issue.
As the chart below suggests, succession planning is complex. It isn’t an event, but a process that takes years in the making. A number of very specific challenges need to be addressed and resolved for the process to be successful. One of those challenges might be defining success itself. For sure an inclusive collaborative process has a better chance for success – structuring that process often requires the involvement of outside professionals familiar with the steps along the way.
Family Business Consulting
My goal as a family business consultant is to facilitate positive change within the interactive systems of family, ownership and management leaving behind a more successful business and a healthier family. Often, this can be as simple as opening up thwarted lines of communication; other times it can be extremely complex requiring difficult soul searching and even the alteration of lifelong plans and dreams.
Unlike many other forms of consultations, family business engagements are unique in each and every situation – there is no manual to be passed out and taught. That is not to say that the methodology of the process is different, but rather, that the facts and circumstances surrounding family, ownership and management are different in each situation and even at different times in the same situation. Often, the facts and circumstances dictate that professionals of other disciplines need to be engaged. Sometimes an effective change of one or more of the systems must occur prior to any real progress toward the attainment of the long-term objectives.
Consequently, the initial task is to determine the immediate issues and concerns, followed by the development of plans, policies and procedures to address those issues and concerns – always keeping in mind the longer range objectives of the family and business. There is a set of procedures you might call “best practices” that family firms should follow. Through the consulting process these “best practices” become a delivered benefit.
It is my goal to work myself out of an engagement as efficiently and effectively as possible while leaving behind a vastly improved client. To that end, let me outline a typical family business consulting engagement with the understanding that underlying facts and circumstances unique to your situation could alter the “typical” process.