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.