Throughout my years as a business succession advisor I have witnessed a familiar set of actions and consequences across varying business types, which have resulted in constant turmoil and an imbalance in the “Family Business Acceptance Equilibrium.” Since I have experienced so many businesses’ struggling with this common issue, it led me to give thought to why??? The culprit appears to be a confliction of attitudes that is blind, self centric and places a higher priority upon feelings, values or beliefs of one family member or key manager(s) versus the welfare of the organization as a whole.
Before I move on, I would like to explain the Family Business Acceptance Equilibrium mentioned above. The Family Business Acceptance Equilibrium describes a family culture that has entered a into a collaborative business initiative and has achieved a productive balance in the conflicting priorities of family and business. The defining characteristic of family is a high degree of unconditional acceptance. The conflict between family and business occurs because the contrasting defining characteristic of business is conditional performance to generate the perceived to fulfill the cash flow, profit and regulatory demands for staying in business. The challenge to all families engaged in business is finding and maintaining this optimally productive Family Business Acceptance Equilibrium.
From the outset, the core beliefs of the family leaders set the initial balance between conflicting attitudes that cause imbalance. There is no balance of acceptance that describes all family businesses. The only immediate litmus for determining if the equilibrium is right is survival. If the business does not fail due to disorganization and the lack of protocols or if the family does not split due to unrelenting, insensitive accountability, at least for the short term the balance was right. And this “right balance” in the hands of a strong family leader or in the presence of extraordinary family bonds can sustain a business for a period that defies logic. However over the long term the irrepressible challenges to family harmony and business productivity will determine if the “acceptance balance “ is right or if Family Business Acceptance Equilibrium can be achieved or maintained.
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