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The Gift That Can Keep On Giving for A Lifetime, By Denise Ware

It is Christmastime! A time where traditions of warm apple cider, eggnog, milk and cookies for Santa, fruit cake, candy canes, gingerbread houses, Yuletide Carols and various traditions that have been handed down through generations. Family members look forward to Christmas with excitement and anticipation, especially the little ones with great expectations. A big part of Christmas is the gift giving that occurs among family and friends. You spend a great deal of time and money to pick out just the right gift for that special someone. Sometimes when it is difficult to find the perfect gift, gift giving becomes a burdensome chore. This year we have the ideal solution for your gifts to family.

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Why Family Governance Should Not be Overlooked

In my first post on this issue I said that the reason for exploring family dynamics is precisely because family issues compel business decisions. I just got off an hour long phone conversation with a client regarding generational attitude differences between her generation and the 3rd generation family member employees. The mental health issue that has brought this to the forefront is that one of the G3 family members just admitted himself, at the urging of other family members, into a drug rehab facility.

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Dig Deep Into Family Dynamics - There May Be A Mental Health Issue At Play

Not too long ago a client asked, after our initial review of the family succession planning environment, where his family stood on the weirdness scale. Well, weirdness is not really the issue, but optimization of human functioning and relationships is of paramount importance. The reason I tell clients that we pry into family dynamics is precisely because family issues compel business decisions. Little did I know 8 years ago when I entered succession planning for family owned businesses as a career how helpful my background as a professional counselor would be. In my next three posts I’ll describe several scenarios and the impact on the business planning environment.

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How to Move Family Dynamics from "Good to Great"

Books like Built to Last and Good to Great offer a recipe for successful business performance.  There are now millions of people talking about big hairy audacious goals that can be accomplished by putting the right people in the right seat on the right bus. 

If your primary goal in life is business success, then these books – and others like them – should definitely be on your reading list.  By reading them, you will either confirm your belief in how to manage and lead your business or deny them.

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How to Align Business with Family Goals

A few weeks ago I met a prospective client who happened to be in business with three of their siblings. Two of the family members are in their mid forties and two are in their mid fifties. They have done a fantastic job of giving birth to and developing a successful business over the past twenty years. However, they have reached a point in their business life where they are struggling with what to do next. After spending approximately two hours with this family, it became clear to me that they have been working in opposite directions. Each family member was doing what they thought was important for the business, not necessarily what is in the long term best interest of the company. Thus, one of my conclusions was, “your vision is in need of an alignment.”

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How to Avoid Your Family Business From Becoming a Sinking Ship

Last night was a great night for watching movies about righting sinking ships.  First, I saw a few minutes of Pirates of the Caribbean.  I tuned in just as Captain Jack Sparrow and the rest of the crew were running back and forth from starboard to port in an effort to right the ship and return to the land of the living. 

Then came the Titanic, the ship that couldn’t be sunk.  Unless, of course, it hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic.  As the band played, passengers on that ship also got caught up in running back and forth.  For most of them, the outcome was tragic.

Sometimes, we see similar things happen with families, especially when one or both parents try to run the family like it’s an extension of the business or run the business like it’s an extension of the family.  In either scenario, there’s lots of running around and rearranging of the deck chairs; and it’s almost always damaging and sometimes fatal to relationships.

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Let Your Successor Experience It All

Confirming the optimum role for a family member entering the business is an exciting process that takes patience, honesty and proactive aggressive coaching. For the family member to have the opportunity to achieve their ultimate role the most important developmental activity is establishing, monitoring and refining a three to five year on-the-job-training plan that exposes the candidate to most if not all the departments of the business. This development track should offer diversity and challenges that provide sufficient feedback to confirm the optimum job role.

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In-Laws - You Can be a Positive or Negative Force, Your Choice!

The second step to navigating the role of an in-law in the family business environment is to seek to understand the family’s unwritten laws -  if you don’t know them, you will not know whether you are about to break them.  Knowing the laws allows you to discover how to best live within them, and potentially even have a positive influence on those laws over time. However, you must understand as an in-law that no one has asked you to come in and be the rescuer and change all of the dysfunctional dynamics that occur in your spouse’s family.

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What Happens When There Are Multiple Successors and the Eldest is not the Best Qualified?

In many, if not most, family owned businesses, there seems to be at least one member of the next generation who wants to take a crack at being Number One.  What happens when there are multiple successors and the eldest is not the best qualified? 

The wrong choice can, and probably will, have devastating consequences on future family harmony and business success.   Picking a successor simply because (s)he is the eldest or rejecting someone based on gender can be fatal.  Unfortunately, we still see far too many businesses being lead by incompetent sons when highly competent daughters were stereotyped into inferior roles. 

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Business and Family Success - Can You Have Both?

One of the mantras around our offices concerns the health of interpersonal relationships in a family owned business.  It’s quite simple, and I really like it.  Are you ready?  Here it is:  No business success is worth a family failure.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that everyone’s family, my own included, experiences some level of dysfunction.  It can be anywhere from somewhat comical to outright tragic.  Imagine reaching a high level of business and financial success only to learn that your spouse wants a divorce and your children don’t want to be around you. 

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Compensation Plans for Family Member Employees

Most parents contend they love all their children equally, so naturally they want to treat them equally (which I can appreciate as a parent of three boys). However, there is a distinction that should be made regarding an equal estate distribution and equal compensation. Let’s face it, every person is blessed with a unique personality, unique talents and unique skill sets. Furthermore, every individual is motivated by different things. Doesn’t it stand to reason that individuals (including family members) should be compensated based upon what they do rather than who they are? I submit to you they should!

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Family Dynamics and Business Performance - How Closely Are They Related?

In my previous two posts, "How to Find Balance Between Family and Business"  and "How to Achieve Balance Between the Family and the Business," I discussed two of the three steps great and enduring families engage in:

  1. They establish balance between family and business priorities.

  2. They work hard to convey this balance to and through the next generation.

  3. They pursue Succession Success.

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How to Achieve Balance Between the Family and Business

In my last post, "How to Find Balance Between Family and Business," I suggested that there are three things that great and enduring family businesses do:

  1. They are dedicated to creating a balance between family and business priorities.

  2. They proactively encourage and are dedicated to the family’s cohesive, supportive values that promote family and business balance.

  3. They achieve Succession Success.

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How To Find Balance Between Family and Business

“Oh, I’m just so tired of this. I want the business to continue, but I don’t want to be bothered with it anymore.” These words, recently voiced by a client, came out of addressing family dynamics that are impacting business decisions. There are a multitude of reasons to not address family relationship dynamics as they are impacted by the business and, conversely, they impact the business. True family leaders don’t cower in the face of these family challenges because they understand that their greatest asset is their family members. Instead, they boldly engage the family in dialogue and interactions that can at times be emotionally trying and nearly impossible to navigate.

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Treat Me Like Your Business Partner, Not Your Child

My previous blogs, “Business is Tough, But Life is Good” and Business is Tough, What an Opportunity” focused on the need for positive leadership and the opportunity this economy is presenting to provide invaluable experience for your successors. This posting provides a twist on the topic of successor development focusing on the child/business owner dynamic.

“I am tired of being treated like a child! If this is the way it is going to be, I would rather work somewhere else!” These are the words uttered by a frustrated client during a visit a few years ago. These sentiments are undoubtedly shared and echoed by countless family members throughout the United States and around the globe. There is no question, maintaining a healthy balance between business and family is extremely difficult to do. However, it is not insurmountable!

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What if the Manager Who Doesn't Get It Is One Of My Children??

Previously, we talked about the tendency to promote people into management positions because they are excellent performers who need advancement. Sometimes, that results in losing a high performer and not gaining a good manager/leader; so we gave you a list of ten questions to review prior to promoting someone – family member or not, into a more responsible position.

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How Do I select a Successor for My Business?

Very carefully! There is a great deal riding on this decision. Some of you have children actively involved in your business and, thus, naturally feel the above question does not apply to you. For a small minority of you, this may be true. You may indeed be blessed with a passionate, capable and committed successor. However, the vast majority should think again!

Approximately ten years ago, I met John Smith (fictitious name), a successful business owner, who was the proud father of three children. His oldest son, Harry, was active in his business. Unfortunately, Harry was not well respected by managers and employees in the organization. A logical question you may be asking is, why? Good question.

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The 10 Commandments for Integrating Family Member Employees Into Your Business

The Biblical assertion” to whom much is given, much is required” certainly applies to family member employees. Although the doorway to a career may be open and inviting, the pathway of family member employees has many challenges. No doubt, earning respect is a formidable task. As previously discussed, many of these challenges are good as they separate the pretenders from contenders. However, family member employees do not need handicaps. There is no reason to add unnecessary frustration, stress and humiliation to the inherently bumpy road that they must endure to achieve the training and experience needed to become a successor.  

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Vision, Conflict and Business

A clear, concise, well communicated, self-affirming vision is a critical component to the creation of an unstoppable family business succession plan.  However, just establishing a vision in this complicated world is not enough because in the business succession realm, this vision involves teamwork. Unfortunately those whom we endear, those whom we love, those whom we depend upon to continue our businesses and those who depend upon us for their careers can complicate our circumstances and the achievement of a succession vision that on a good day has many moving parts and on a bad day can appear mind boggling. In the midst of complications with family, key managers, lenders and vendors succession can become such a hassle that a business owner may want to isolate himself. Unfortunately this isolation is completely counter productive to the achievement of a vision that requires a team effort. Within the realm of business succession planning, the vast majority of these succession problems are cause by vision conflict. Allow me to explain this frustrating predicament and the remedy.

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What's the First Step in Succession Planning?

Succession planning can be an overwhelming thought. There is so much to be done. “I don’t even know what I don’t know.” There are so many potential issues. There are so many opinions. There are so many places where things can go wrong.

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