Working With Siblings

In a recent blog entry, Seth Godin wrote about options for finding, leading and motivating employees in a small business (he used the term “tiny business”). He characterizes three different management styles, what types of employees work best in each, how they work together, how they relate to being led: “a team of equals, “fellow travelers,” industrialized employees.” He sets forth both advantages and pitfalls inherent in each option.


These same types–equals, fellow travelers, employees–will exist in family businesses staffed by siblings and/or cousins whether in leadership or subordinate roles. Understanding the distinctions, their pros and cons will go a long way in strengthening family relationships and the business itself.

Are siblings in your business equals, fellow travelers or employees?


Accepting Anxiety

Last week I wrote about how to keep moving forward in times when we are feeling overwhelmed by challenges in our businesses. My posting today is on a similar theme—managing our anxiety.

Some business owners thrive on anxiety. They require the frenetic energy it delivers in order to do business. Others suffer severely under the weight of its emotional intensity. Neither extreme is desirable.

The ability to manage anxiety in a balanced way is a requirement for success whether yours is a family or non-family enterprise. Reprising last week’s water metaphor—with each set of rapids we navigate we get stronger. The struggles we encounter as business owners are a source of personal and professional growth.

A prerequisite to managing our anxiety is our acceptance of it.

I recently had a conversation with a young second-generation business owner about her process of managing anxiety as she grew the family business. In her view, seeing her challenges as a vital part of her personal and professional growth was an important first step.

To control the anxieties assaulting her, she learned to diminish their overwhelming character through acceptance of her feelings, instead of exhausting her inner resources in struggling against them.




This past week a number of my clients expressed feeling overwhelmed by unexpected challenges they are facing in their businesses.

Speaking metaphorically, I suggested to one client that he keep the nose of his kayak pointing downstream—that he turn his attention to steering day-to-day business operations. A crisis is not the time for big-picture planning. What is necessary is to focus on paddling past the next group of rocks—not to ponder which may be the best rocks. A few days later he wrote to tell me this phrase kept him moving forward, taking on each new challenge as it came to him.

Our faith in our business and in ourselves increases with each stroke of the paddle. Through flat water, white water, quiet pools, raging rapids, by keeping our kayaks pointed downstream we can successfully navigate the ever-changing currents of business.


But What Will I Tell My Grandchildren?

Seth Godin recently wrote a post with a seven-word title: “But what will I tell the others?” He calls these out as: “Seven urgent words that are rarely uttered.” “The profound question…”

These are, he says: “The words we imagine we’ll tell the boss, the neighbors, our spouse after we make a change or take an action… this drives the choices that constitute our culture, it’s the secret thread that runs through just about everything we do.”

Upon reading this post, I saw its significance to members of family businesses. From their point of view the question that immediately came to mind was: What will we tell our grandchildren about decisions we make regarding our family business? What will we say to them about decisions that will drive the family culture of future generations?

You may see your role in your family business as existing only for the duration of your leadership. Alternatively, you may see your role as growing the wealth of both the business and the family, and passing them on.

You may work to make your business successful for today. Or you may take up the challenge of ensuring a strong foundation that will support the business for leaders of future generations.

You may envision yourself creating a culture and a legacy; inspiring future generations to reflect back with pride on your leadership and your words.