Other symptomsRole confusion, anger, frustration, stress, constant change, lack of meaningful parent/offspring communication... 'if only I could tell them!', 'if only they would listen to me!'...do you recognise any of these? These are familiar territory for owner-managers of family businesses, their spouses and children.
CausesThese and similar symptoms are the usual result of ‘working with the ones you love’ and of the overlap between two different normative systems: family and business. This overlap creates built-in conflicts which cannot be avoided and need to be managed. Family and business systems are volatile and it is a constant challenge for family members to find the balance or equilibrium between the two systems that achieves the dual goals of family harmony and business profitability; it is a ‘tightrope act’!
Possible solutionsUnderstanding and defusing family tensions, entering into a dialogue to create a shared vision for the future, meeting and talking to table and explore issues and concerns are some of the ways families can grow their business and keep it healthy.
Ultimately it is a question of attitudeThe issues and challenges facing families in business can be, and usually are, extremely complex. They often appear to be intractable. They are primarily the result of mixing love and work; family and business.
Most of the solutions to those complex problems appear to be deceptively straightforward or simple. They can be summed up as: ‘Let’s meet, let’s talk and let’s listen to one another’. This includes let us understand the issues, let us respect one another’s perspectives and points of view, let us create a shared vision or dream for the future, and let us work co-operatively to sustain the business and the family.
The main reason the solutions are often not accepted or implemented, or if they are, they do not work has to do with the attitude family members bring to the process of finding a workable solution. Subconsciously, some family members do not really want to do what is necessary to resolve the problems. Too much water has flowed under the bridge, they have acquired an inflexible mind-set about certain people and certain issues.
The challenge for advisers is to become a catalyst for changing attitudes and that is not easy. The key is to concentrate on achieving realistic objectives for both family and business such as ‘able to work together’ and ‘making a good living’. Family members need to be encouraged to focus on the ‘goose that lays the golden eggs’. If they no longer value or respect the goose, or they don’t think it is worth doing what is necessary to keep it laying golden eggs, it is difficult to create the changes in attitude that are the necessary pre-conditions for successful resolution of issues and conflicts.