Hot Tips in a Small Red Package

In October of 2008, consultant David Bork published a small book filled with common sense advice and tips for business families, and family businesses. The Little Red Book of Family Business is full of pragmatic perceptions and useful practices covering issues from attitudes to wills.

On decision making Bork writes:

Families often fall into the trap of having everyone in the family involved in making all decisions. This family pattern of involving everyone is symptomatic of a business that does not have clarity of roles, responsibility and accountability for different things.[1]

On practices and policies:

In family businesses, one can craft an elegant business solution, but the keys to implementation are always locked up in the family psychology. If you pay attention to the elegant solution and the family psychology, you will be more successful in your implementation rate, and your satisfaction quotient and will be much higher.[2]

[1] David Bork, The Little Red Book of Family Business. (Sampson Press: Coda Corporation, 2008), 46.

[2] Bork, 65.


Facing Conflict in The Family Business

All family businesses—and all families—at one time or another face conflict. And it can be extreme. Understanding what triggers conflict and how it develops is useful. Understanding how to manage it is even more important—serious advice offered by family-business consultants Doug Baumoel and Blair Trippe in their new book “Deconstructing Conflict: Understanding Family Business, Shared Wealth and Power.”

In the course of their analysis of conflict in family business, Baumoel and Trippe argue that conflict plays a valuable role in our development; that only through being challenged by conflict do we learn, grow, and advance as individuals, families, companies, and as a society. Further, they submit that it is possible to learn how to manage family business conflict in ways that ensure the success of families and their businesses for generations to come.

Left unaddressed, they warn us, conflict leads to erosion of relationships and waste of valuable resources and opportunities.

The authors have developed an equation by which they can help a family enterprise understand why they are stuck or in conflict and what approaches are needed to move the system forward.

I heard Doug and Blair speak about their ‘conflict equation’ this past April at the annual conference of Attorneys for Family Held Enterprises. From their presentation, I took away effective language for discussing conflict, and a viable process for transforming the consequences of conflict from upheaval to growth.



One of my favorite perspectives on family business is that of stewardship, which is an attitude of seeing our responsibility in taking over the family business from our predecessors as a mandate to grow and improve it, and to pass it on to the next generation in better shape and with greater possibilities than it had when we received it.


A Father’s Legacy

Several years ago my daughter gave me for Father’s Day a journal entitled A Father’s LegacyYour Life Story in Your Own Words.

Each page has a question with space to write on themes from a lifetime of experiences—childhood, family life, education, career, love and marriage, parenting. It asks for recollections of time spent with school friends, of summer holidays, the sports I played, my favorite memory of my mother, what I remember about my first date (being nervous, and asking my mother if I could use her car the day after passing my driver’s exam—she said yes), of my greatest joy in being a father—to name a few.

I have been adding to the journal, a little at a time, with increasing appreciation of the thought behind the gift. It is more than a way of passing stories along. It is a way of memorializing the values that built the stories—values that build families.

I know these memories will be cherished, as I cherish the memories of my parents. The success of a family business is in the family. The joy is in the family. Without that, what is there?