The Family Business Time Continuum

I was recently working with a client who was struggling to make some strategic decisions in his company.  He had recently taken over his family’s business and, like many family businesses, there is a history of family dynamics which is causing them to contemplate the future direction of the organization.  This got me thinking about the paths family businesses choose leading me to ask myself, “Are family business often forced down a strategic path as a result of unresolved conflict in the family?”

As I thought about this more, I recalled the movie Back to the Future and the scene where Doc Brown is explaining the space time continuum path to Marty and the fact that going back to 1955 has caused a new time continuum to occur affecting everything in the future and that if issues are not resolved it will change the future outcome of events.

You may be asking yourself, “what does this have to do with family business?”

Well, if unresolved conflict in a family business is influencing strategic decisions and affecting the path and direction of the business, it seems that this is synonymous with the alteration of the space time continuum in Back to the Future.  If the family can resolve or at least address the past conflict, it provides an opportunity for the family to make strategic decisions based on what is best for the family and the business and not to just avoid past issues.

Time Continuum


In our work with clients, we find that poor communication is most often the underlying current that drives a lot of conflict in a family business.  Before making changes to an intended strategic direction in your business, I encourage you ask yourself “What is causing this shift and is it due to changing market or financial conditions or is because of unresolved family dynamics?”

If it is the latter, I encourage you to address those family issues in an effort to make a decision that is as well informed as possible.  You may find yourself still continuing down the altered path, but at least you are doing it knowing this is what is right for the family and the business.

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