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Drs. Pat & Paul Frishkoff
Globally-Experienced Consultants Specializing In Family Businesses

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Harming Your Family Business

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What might you be doing that harms your family business? Don't answer "nothing" too quickly. We've observed that business owners and family members often sabotage the success of the business, without intention.

Here are five questions about your involvement with your family business. As you read through the list, we invite you to consider how this applies to you:

  1. Working enthusiastically with family. You can't choose your relatives, other than your mate. But, you can decide whether you want to be or should be together during work time. Only if family involvement enhances business success and personal relationships should it be considered.

    Is working with the ones whom you love a primary motivation for your family business? ___ yes ___ no

  2. "Buying in" to a clear mission. Mission is a statement of what the company aims to do and what it hopes to leave behind. Does your company have a concise, well-thought-out mission statement? Is it easy to tell if the company is indeed using the mission? Does the mission guide decision making in today's circumstances?

    Does each family member understand and support the mission? ___ yes ___ no

  3. Openly discussing sensitive issues. In businesses that last, all circumstances - even catastrophic ones - are addressed. Two of the most challenging issues, money and death, should be at the top of the list. Business owners who intend to continue for generations will have well-conceived wills, buy-sell agreements, and succession plans. Do you?

    Is your family willing to put all issues on the table? ___ yes ___ no

  4. Reconciling diverse perspectives. At the annual family meeting, you open discussion about future direction of the family business, and are stunned at how unhappy some family members are with your report. One group thinks the company should employ more high tech and seek rapid growth. An older group argues for status quo and higher payout to owners.

    Is your strategic management nimble enough to honor the wishes of several factions of the family? ___ yes ___ no

  5. Balancing criticism with appreciation. Think about the last time that a family member took some action that really enhanced business operations. Did you take time to offer thanks in a meaningful way? Now, think about a recent instance where a family member made a mess of a project. How quick were you to complain?

    Do you offer appreciation more than you criticize? ___ yes ___ no

We recommend three steps:

  1. Start by having each family member complete this short survey.
  2. Then compare and discuss results, paying careful heed to every "no" answer.
  3. Finally, vote to determine which of the five needs the most attention, and start by brainstorming three ways that you could make improvements.

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