So You’re in the Family Business

So You’re in the Family Business is a collection of short articles based on real happenings in real family businesses. Individual and company names have been altered to respect privacy. These brief previews are intended to whet your appetite to read further to gain insights into the events of other business families, perhaps, not too dissimilar to your own. Click on the title to read the full article.


Catalogue of articles


Begin at the beginning
Rick and his father have a conflict about the way to perform a project. This article sets the stage for future articles with a statistical base of family business failures and a detailing of the common issues of conflict in family businesses.


When you’ve been asked to join the family business
Parents ask their son, Jon, who is about to graduate from college, to join them and his sister in their family business. Jon struggles with pros and cons. Suggestions are given as to what steps he should take in making his decision.


A part-time commitment is not a life sentence
Father is ill and mom pressures their daughter, Laura, the youngest of their three children, to join them in the family business. Laura has no interest in owning the business but cares very deeply about her parents and is torn with guilt and a sense of responsibility to help them. Suggestions are made to parents how to handle this type of situation.


Gaining credibility in the family business
Younger brother, Ron, struggles to be heard by his parents and older sister. He feels that his ideas get shot down because he is “younger.” Suggestions are made to help younger people be heard better in the family business while waiting for gray hair to grow.


When dad isn’t ready to let go
Father is reluctant to address issues in leadership succession and ownership transfer in the family business. The children feel their father thinks he’s never going to die. They struggle for ideas of how to get him to address the issues.


When a raise is not enough
Son asks his father for a raise and father grants it, but based on family reasons not business reasons. The family must separate family and business issues and the company must develop compensation criteria.


When circles of fog block a view to the future
Parents are concerned that their children are still irresponsible “kids” and not good enough decision makers. So how can mom and dad retire? Circular patterns of behavior and expectations develop over time and must be cut to effect change allowing for a proper transition.


When equal may not be fair
Parents have two children working in the business and two children with other careers. They leave their attorney’s office trying to figure out what is fair. Does this mean giving each of the four children an equal share of the business?


Which comes first, the family or the business?
Brothers-in-law are surprised when silent expectations about the future of the business are altered as the younger generation’s employment comes into question.


When generational perspectives differ
Generational differences surface as a son and daughter express their desire to expand the business, while dad is content with the status quo.


If men and women are equal
Karen wants to join her dad and brother but needs a non-traditional flexible schedule so she can balance life with her husband and children. Her brother and dad are uncertain how “fair” this is or how it will work out.


Am I my uncle’s keeper?
Henry’s son, Jeffrey, is trying to implement a Quality Program in his business and finds his Uncle Harry (his father’s brother) is an obstacle. Henry cannot understand his son’s inability to accept Harry unconditionally.


Does punctuality really matter?
Dad wants to plan for retirement and sees his son’s lack of punctuality as evidence that he is not ready to “take over” the business. Richard and his father need to understand the dynamics and agree on a plan to evaluate Richard’s knowledge and attitude and train him for transition.


When the heir apparent may not be so
Professional advisors are concerned about the future leadership of a family business client and individually reluctant to confront the principals, so they team together to deliver the message.


When spouses’ expectations don’t match
As Alan starts his estate and succession planning, his wife’s previously silent desire for a role in the business comes to the fore.


When “mothering” is not mom’s proper role
Stan feels “picked on” by his older brother and seeks support from Mom to help his cause, reliving patterns of behavior from a generation past. Mom wisely resists and encourages Stan to speak directly with his brother.


Whose family comes first?
Raymond, his father and brother earn equal salaries. But Raymond’s wife believes her husband should have more compensation to reflect his hard work, long hours, and the needs of their children.


When “for better or worse” becomes worse
Martin develops a relationship with an employee, Ellen. As Martin struggles to make a decision whether or not to leave his wife, his relationship with Ellen takes a toll on the family business, especially on co-worker daughter, Margie.


When all’s well that ends well
Roland repeatedly requests changes to an agreement for his daughter to buy the family business. Roland’s ambivalence surfaces as daughter Janet questions his commitment to the deal.


Where goes my loyalty, to sibling or spouse?
When Jane’s husband Steve, is unexpectedly laid off, Jane tries to encourage her business partner/brother, Jeff, to give Steve a job in their family business. Jeff is reluctant and concerned about the longer range consequences. Jane sees Jeff as being unfair.


To leave or not to leave
Mom expresses concern over accelerated conflict between her husband and son since the son’s division has had business problems. Son believes he is underpaid and is considering other employment and Mom is concerned that such a move might take her grandchildren away.


When it’s time to plan to plan
Dad, still the entrepreneur, is bent on more growth for the business, while his son and daughter, who are more reluctant, want an analytical approach. Family members need to examine and reconcile their individual goals to achieve a proper direction for the business.


Leadership succession whose call is it?
Father and daughter debate over who should make the decision around future leadership of the family business. Dad wants his children to decide and they think he’s “copping out” in fear that those not selected will be very angry at him.


When a hope is not a promise
A father expressed hope that his son would take over the business. Son heard this expression as a commitment and is anxiously waiting for his father to follow through. Father now has some doubts about his son’s ability and is unsure how to proceed.

If You Would Like More Information, or To Have A Discussion