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The Impacts of Family Dynamics on the Transition of Leadership in a Multi-Generational Dealership

In a collaborative effort to demonstrate some common roadblocks that both DHG Dealerships and The Rawls Group often sees within family-run dealership clients who are in the process of making leadership changes, this case study will briefly analyze the family dynamics between Sam (dealer) and his son, Mark.

Background

At 80 years-old, Sam is the majority owner and CEO of his family-run dealership. While Sam remains active in business operations and decisions, the time he spends at the dealership is gradually decreasing as he currently works about one or two days per week. Sam’s management team is very loyal; however, the micromanagement style of leadership he implements has proved to be a difficult challenge to overcome for his 50-year-old son, Mark, who serves as the stockholder “dealer” and is ready to start exercising more control.

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Dr. Merlot’s Perspective: Generational Differences Impacting Teamwork - Advice to Millennial's and Baby Boomers

When Loyd and I met last, we discussed Millennials and Boomers on a quick puddle jumper as best we could over the loud engines.

As a refresher, over the last couple of months, Loyd and I have focused our discussions on overcoming generational differences in the workplace. In December, we discussed influences responsible for shaping generational perspectives. January’s discussion was geared towards advice to Boomers about Millennials, and February focused on advice to Millennials about Boomers.

Today we are meeting at the rental car terminal on our way to meet with a client on this very topic. Our client is experiencing tension in the workplace between what the client is referring to as “old school” and “new school” ways of thinking. Over the last couple of months, our client has fielded multiple meetings on the topic. Frustrated and noticing a dip in productivity and team morale, he called us in to quickly “nip this thing in the bud.”

Once we found ourselves to the rental car and got our wits about us, Loyd asked: “So as we are driving towards what could be an emotional mess, how are you thinking of approaching the perspectives of “old” and “new” school thinker/team members?

Well Loyd, I started; you and I have had rich dialogue on how both Millennials and Boomers could expand their thinking about the other. What I would add to those discussions would be something to the tune of….

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Dr. Merlot’s Perspective: Generational Differences Impacting Teamwork - Advice to Millennial's about Baby Boomers

For the last couple of month’s Loyd and I have been discussing generational differences and how to overcome issues they often create in the workplace. Loyd initially posed the question to me in December, but since this was such a big topic, we decided to break up the conversation into a 4-part series; tackling one topic at a time.

In December, Loyd and I discussed outside influences responsible for shaping generational perspectives on areas such as work-ethic, communication and technology. And in January, Loyd geared the discussion towards what advice would I give to Boomers and Millennials. So, as I sit here in the airport waiting for Loyd to meet me for our connecting flight; I am pondering what could be Loyd's next question.

Loyd walks up, we say our hello’s, board the plane and as soon as we get to 10,000 feet, Loyd gets right to it. “Say Doc, not a lot of time on this puddle jumper, so let’s move on with this discussion on generational issues. Last month we focused on advice to Boomers about Millennials, so what insight do you have for Millennials working with Boomers?

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Dr. Merlot’s Perspective: Generational Differences Impacting Teamwork - Boomer Perspectives about Millennial’s

The last time Loyd and I were together, Loyd posed a question in regards to Overcoming Generational Issues Impacting Teamwork - “How do privately held businesses overcome the generational issues that have a direct impact on teamwork and business performance?” Loyd can never just ask a simple question. ”

Knowing that we could not answer this in one sit-down and one glass of wine, we decided to tackle the topic in a four-part series focused on:

  • Boomer perspective about Millennial’s
  • Millennial perspective about Boomers
  • Advice to Both
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Dr. Merlot’s Perspective: Overcoming Generational Differences Impacting Teamwork

We have looked at sibling partnerships under stress, my perspective on the impact gender has on leadership and teamwork, and my thoughts on gender bias in the workplace. In this installment, I have mixed it up just a little, thanks to my buddy Loyd, who felt it would be a good idea to bring the “generation” conversation to the table. His question to me was, “How do privately held businesses overcome the generational issues that have a direct impact on teamwork and business performance?”

Knowing that I could not answer this in one sit-down and one glass of wine, this four-part series will focus on:

  • Boomer perspective about Millennial’s
  • Millennial perspective about Boomers
  • Advice to Both
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Dr. Merlot’s Perspective: Overcoming Sibling Partnerships Under Stress

Picking up where we left off from my last post….

In typical Loyd fashion, just before hanging up from our phone conversation focused on Gender’s Impact on Leadership and Teamwork, he left me with a zinger - “What if siblings in business are not willing to recognize each other’s contributions to build a strong partnership?” After working through the previous gender topics I was grateful to have a few days to think about his heavy question.

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As Seen in Multi-Unit Franchisee Report - Creating Harmony in Sibling Partnerships

As Seen in Multi-Unit Franchisee Report - Creating Harmony in Sibling Partnerships

Sibling partnerships create a dynamic environment - especially when managing relationships in a highly competitive multi-unit franchisee organization. Everything can feel personal because nothing can be "just business."

Read the complete article on the Multi-Unit Franchisee Report website

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Dr. Merlot’s Perspective: Gender's Impact on Leadership and Teamwork

Looking at how male vs. female psyche works, there is no doubt they are different. In fact, a popular analogy to describe these differences is “Men are like Waffles and Woman are like Spaghetti.” Coined by bestselling authors – Bill and Pam Farrel, their analogy provides imagery of how men create boundaries around issues and areas of life, where woman approach decision making and life like a plate of spaghetti – no defined boundaries and one issue can blend into another.

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Dr. Merlot’s Perspective on Gender Bias in the Workplace

Natural May Not Be Obvious

Known for offering up the truth of the matter, let’s get right to the point and address a trend that I am seeing more often than I would like. Gender bias in the workplace. Yup. I said it. It’s out there, and if you are reading this, then you have experienced it, have seen it, or perhaps are a participant in it. Regardless of where you stand, let’s take a look into how your business may intentionally or unintentionally be impacted.

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Sibling Rivalry to Sibling Synergy

Siblings in business who are experiencing rivalry issues have simply not recognized that they are now adults. They have carried the petty issues of their childhood with them into the business. When you become an adult you have to put away childish things. Sibling rivalries in family business are often rooted in a competition to win dad’s approval. It’s time to recognize that you are in business together fighting for the survival and success of the business. You must spend more time winning each other’s approval than dad’s.   

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How to Handle Underperforming Family Member Employees

Family members are attracted to the family business for a number of reasons. Most of my clients are thrilled to have their offspring involved in their businesses and many have high aspirations for their children. The truth is, family members can represent a profound asset especially if they enter the business with humility, adequate training, and meaningful prior work experience. These individuals tend to be a delight to have around and are relatively easy to manage. Conversely, entitlement, arrogance and a less-than-stellar work ethic can be problematic. So what happens when a family member does not carry his or her weight?

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Working Towards Working Together

When I first met my wife, Patricia, I was head over heels in love. Although, just a few years after our honeymoon, our marriage appeared to be less than ideal. However, we decided we wanted to be married so we found a counselor to help us understand and deal with the good and bad we brought to our union. After 30+ years of counseling we have a marriage that isn't perfect but one that is getting better every day.

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Fifty-Fifty, Not So Nifty

As a business succession planner, I encounter the full gamut of dealership business structures, Regular C corporations, S-corporations, partnerships and limited liability companies. I have had clients owned by public corporations and foreign corporations, and even one client who boasted he was the only sole proprietorship dealership in the United States. That relationship was short-lived - he was not pleased with my response.  

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Family and Business = Harmony or Fireworks?

A dealer recently told me, “I have one brother who is my best friend and one who I don’t talk with, all because of business and financial issues.” Tragic yes, but not uncommon. Having worked with auto dealers and their families for 27 years, I have witnessed situation after situation in which the family business has resulted in lots of family heartache. Fortunately that does not have to be the end result and there are many examples of family dealerships being run successfully by harmonious family members. So what are the landmines that you need to avoid?

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Dealing with In-laws in a sibling partnership

I recently facilitated a reconciliation meeting between a brother and sister-in-law. Since the relationship between the brothers was good, I wondered how did the relationship between the brother and sister-in-law go sour? The sister-in-law was admittedly harboring bitterness toward her husband’s older brother because of her perception of how her husband was being treated in the family’s business. 

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The Difference between a Family Member Employee and a Successor

A client who managed the family business alongside his two siblings recently told me his son was graduating and he wanted to develop a plan for his son to join the business. The client wanted this successor development curriculum so he could give his son the assurance that he was being fast tracked.  He stated it was very important for his son to catch up to his cousins who entered the business six years earlier, otherwise his son may not be considered as a viable successor candidate.  I responded with an explanation that a family business could have the good fortune to have more than one successor. 

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Family Business Harmony Best Practices

As a business succession planner I believe family harmony is a component of the Succession Matrix®. On a day to day basis I deal with the good, the bad, and the ugly of family business. The good gives me encouragement that family business succession is worth the brain damage and affirmation that there is no such thing as a perfect family. The bad provides me a sense of job security and confirmation that all family issues can be resolved if the parties will just remain engaged. And the ugly makes me question my career choice and acknowledge that the problems on the have side can be worse than those on the have-not. Based upon my 40 years or so experience within this Matrix, I have concluded that facts are stranger than fiction when it comes to inter-family dynamics and no matter how bad circumstances are within a family it can always get worse. Furthermore, I have had an opportunity over my career to identify best practices of families who relatively speaking have achieved family harmony.  

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Remembering to Forget - The Secret to Building Family Business Harmony

My final thought on why some families are more effective at achieving harmony and unity is that successful families dwell more in the present than in the past. As even the presumed role model families will admit, it is not always hunky dory on the family front. The fundamental family motivation is “the good of the present outweighs the bad of the past”. My encouragement and advice to clients seeking family harmony and unity is to “remember to forget.” You have choices. First, do I want this/these relationship(s); do I want to have family in more than name only? If yes, you have to remember to forget the pain of the past as it can and will totally pollute the relationship prospects of the future. Being practical, I am not talking about forgetting that your brother-in-law is a convicted bank robber or that your son is a struggling drug addict. I am talking about the personal stereotyping and resentment that if allowed to taint every personal interaction will build and sustain insurmountable boulders in the pathway to strong interdependent families.

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Featured

How to Overcome the Feeling of Being Blindsided by the Unexpected

Most of us go through the day thinking that we’re pretty much on top of things.  Then, a business colleague or associate comes into our office; or a family member asks for a few minutes to talk; or we get a tweet, an email, or some other piece of information that catches us off guard.   Innocently, we ask “How long has this been going on?” and we feel the breath leave our bodies as we discover that something usually incredibly wrong or sad has been going on around us for far too long.

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How to Create Stronger Family Business Relationships - Respect and Trust are Experiential

The presence of respect and/or trust within a group confirms a Blood Related Business Group or a family in business. Love is sweet and it can indeed amplify both trust and respect but love is not a critical component of family or family business performance.  The respect and trust associated with healthy families provides the natural advantage with regard to accountability, governance and teamwork. This organizational natural infrastructure advantage is what can give a family a performance edge in business. The presence of both respect and trust and variations of each make some families more effective than others.

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