Family in business can be a significant advantage or a reciprocally significant disadvantage. The absence of respect and/or trust between the members, regardless of a common gene pool, confirms just a struggling Blood Related Business Group not a family. The struggles are known to all group dynamics as in rivalry, resentment, pay-back and other bizarre behaviors and attitudes that attempt to provide protection from perceived flesh eaters. Love is no antidote to the ills of this environment and predictably amplifies the frustration and anxiety associated with the disrespect and distrust from loved ones. In the absence of love, the rational members of the BRBG generally stop taking the abuse and move on to a more tolerable and reasonable environment. Whereas respect and trust provide inherent productivity advantages, distrust and disrespect provide an equally if not greater disadvantage.

So how do we change the dynamic of  disrespect and distrust that handicaps so many “Blood Related Business Groups” that want to become productive family businesses?  

 1. Determine if there are any family terrorists. 

These incurable malcontents can be easily identified as they are not motivated to improve their perspective, but motivated to reconcile anger and resentment through various means of pay-back.  As many of my clients have so bravely demonstrated, families can exist with a terrorist but the collateral damage becomes progressively more difficult.

Unfortunately, removing or reconciling a family terrorist is no easy task as they generally view themselves as victims. Any pressure directed at them generally feeds their goal of creating chaos. Furthermore, it is near impossible for a member of a family to reconcile their own family’s disease. Therefore, involvement of an independent party to provide an objective assessment and offer viable alternative courses of action gives the best shot at identifying and removing a family terrorist.  

 2. Establish a leadership role within the family.

Leadership is a critical component to building family harmony and unity and most important, avoiding or addressing family terrorists.  The following are 5 key roles or positions the leader must take:  

  • Earn the trust and respect of rational family members
  • Remove the irrational (terrorists) and then dictate that respect and trust to non negotiable, core values. 
  • Serve as a role model and be vulnerable to close inspection of actions, attitudes and motives 
  • Apply that ever so difficult accountability to anyone challenging the core values
  • Constantly dictate that there is no opportunity for a family member to pursue a role in the family’s business just for the money. 

In search of a turnaround from a “Blood Related Business Group” to a family business, a leader must recognize that regaining respect and trust requires a major change of behaviors and attitudes, which will take patience.  Families don’t learn to distrust overnight so there is no valid presumption that distrust can be eradicated overnight.

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