09/30/17

Father/Son Conflict—An Obstacle To Change In Family Business

Often I hear a son in a family business speaking harshly about how his father rejects the initiatives he proposes for changes in the business. Frustrated by rejection, the son may interpret his father’s attitude to mean that he cannot accept opposition to his authority.

Alternatively, the father’s view of the situation may be that his son means to push him aside, eager to take over control. The father, threatened, fears a feeling of diminishment and loss of identity.

The above—although simply put—is a recognized dynamic in family businesses. The details vary as the families and their businesses vary; no two being the same. But behind the simplicity lurks a world of emotional complexity on each side.

What does the business mean to the father? What sacrifices did he make to build it? What were his beginnings? What obstacles did he overcome to establish a viable enterprise? In what way does his business reflect his values, and stand as a source of pride in his life’s hard work? What will happen to him should he one day have nothing to do?

What motivates the son? Ambitious, energetic; educated; enthusiastic; he wants to prove himself and his new ideas. Underneath this though, a range of emotions dwells. For example, he may feel that his abilities will not measure up to his father’s; that he cannot fill his father’s shoes. He may not be able to comfortably articulate his thoughts and vision. And he may be genuinely overconfident—overestimating the value of his modernizing ideas, born as they might be from an education at the best of contemporary business schools.

The two are, in a very real sense, unknowns to each other. And, to avoid potential business disaster, it is critical that they be introduced and reconciled.

This is the delicate work of family-business advisors, who, through disclosing relationship patterns; applying techniques such as psychological assessment tools and behavior modification; teaching skills in diplomacy and negotiation; prepare a ground for mutual understanding and respect.

It seems inevitable that there will be contention between fathers and grown sons in a family business. But by learning each other’s abilities, desires and ideas a ground can be prepared where each generation learns from the other, and a constructive forward motion established.[1]

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[1] This article reflects ideas in Moveed Fazail, 2013. Fighting for the Crown: The father/son relationship in first generation family enterprises. Family Form Practitioner, July 16, 2013

02/25/17

Benchmarks for Family Enterprise Survival

In September, 2012, Dennis T. Jaffe, Ph.D., of Saybrook University and Jane Flanagan, of Family Office Exchange published Best Practices of Successful, Global, Multi-Generational Family Enterprises. Responding to the lack of solid research into strategies that support long-established family enterprises, they undertook an academic-level study with the goal of benchmarking best practices for multi-generational longevity.

Their research confirmed what has long been known among family-business advisors about best practices of family-enterprise governance, family relationships and development of next generation members:

Nurture the Family
Steward the Family Enterprises
Cultivate Human Capital for the Next Generation

Jaffe and Flanagan found that successful family enterprises strive for a balance among the three. If problems arise in any of these areas, the family does not see itself as successful.

In upcoming blog articles I will expand on each of these best practices areas, and finally discuss the importance of balance among them.

04/23/16

The Word From D.C.–It Takes a Team

I am writing this blog piece while attending the annual conference of Attorneys for Family Held Enterprises (AFHE) in Washington D.C. Each year’s conference brings together a multidisciplinary group of family business advisors, financial planners, psychologists and attorneys–representatives of AFHE’s wide membership base.

One of the organization’s underlying missions is to promote the well being and sustainability of business families. AFHE understands that family businesses are complex because families are complex; that seeing their challenges as business issues alone and addressing them from the perspective of any single professional discipline will fall egregiously short of achieving this aim. The best success comes from the collaborative efforts of experts.