More often than not, a weakness in what was prematurely perceived to be a successful family business is a reflection of predictable environmental wear and tear on both relationships and processes. Usually this wear and tear is due to the inability to achieve or maintain the Family Business Acceptance Equilibrium or Family-Business balance. 

Relationally, there may be great harmony or operationally  impressive nothing-slips-through-the-cracks accountability, however; regardless of past achievements, as a family business matures   success in both harmony and productivity that was initially easy to achieve   begin to be more challenging. Initially family members, eventually employees and ultimately on lookers recognize that there is something amiss. Business is no longer sufficiently gratifying for family members or productive for managers. Typically there is growing dismay as to why the business has become so difficult followed by the expenditure of significant time, energy and consulting dollars trying to tune up processes and procedures when the culprit lies within the culture of the business.

The reality is that it is difficult to maintain any culture representing an acceptance balance within a family business and near impossible to maintain the Family Business Equilibrium that supports optimum productivity.  Maintaining any acceptance balance requires a mature, sophisticated family business to engage in a constant battle of self assessment and reconfirmation of who we are, what we are and for what we stand. To add to this dilemma, most family businesses are relatively immature and unsophisticated. They have not defined their culture. There is no expression, debate and reconfirmation of core values and non negotiables. There is no proactive communication to employees, customers and vendors of “this is who we are”.  There is only an apologetic defensive reaction to evolving awkward or embarrassing circumstances that attempts to convince participants and on-lookers “this is who we are not”.  Consequently continual “culture creep” is inevitable due to predictable changes in family and key managers combined with the constant influx of new employees, who naturally challenge custom, authority and tradition as well as new demanding customers and vendors who feel compelled to tell suppliers and distributors how to run their business.  

In light of the perils it appears to be time for the family business to become self aware and grow up. Define who they are; understand what is right  and endeavor to identify the Equilibrium that would be required for optimum productivity.

 Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter to stay informed on how to overcome related succession planning issues.