Strategies for Family Businesses

Strategies for Family Businesses

After more than 20 years experience coaching with business executives and providing leadership and management training seminars with businesses large and small, I have developed an opinion that most companies are just large families.  It is more apparent in smaller companies, but often just as obvious with Fortune 500 companies, that people get hired and what they do is, reinact whatever family patterns they grew up with right in the workplace.  Associates and managers become surrogates for siblings and parents.  The same problem behaviors and conflicts an individual had at home and the sensitivities they are prone toward, somehow show up in the company environment.  So regardless of whether your company fits the definition of a ‘family business’ or not, you can probably benefit from some aspects of this article.

What is a Family Business? 

A family business is a commercial organization in which decision-making is influenced by multiple generations of a family, related by blood or marriage, who are closely identified with the firm through leadership or ownership. There is a multi-generational dimension of family influence that creates the unique dynamics and relationships.  On the upside, there tends to be a stronger than normal loyalty and dedication to the enterprise.  However, problems include lack of alignment between interests of the family and interests of the business and it is common to see conflicts between family members that are engrained from early childhood experience.  Naturally, the issue of fairness tends to play a bigger role in family businesses.  If one family member is perceived to have more authority or be rewarded more, another member may feel victimized.  How an individual contributes to codependent relationships is hard to bring into conscious awareness so that change can occur.  Things just happen the way they happen in families; but do they?

Common Problems in Family Businesses

Lack of clarity between roles of family, ownership, and management are common themes with regard to conflict that other businesses tend not have have to deal with in such extremes.  Family businesses are often started by a strong founding member but eventually the founder steps down, grows old or just wants to do something else with their lives.  These transitions are often particularly difficult.  Who will be able to fill the shoes of the founder?  Is there a way team members can experience recognition and fairness?  New roles and levels of involvement often require changes in how interests are balanced.  The question of how decisions are going to be made in a family business are a continuing source of minor and major disagreements, arguments and downright sabotage.  Even defining what is a family meeting and what is a business activity can cause unanticipated conflicts.  Business meetings can be disastrous without some kind of ongoing oversight and implementation of evaluation processes.

Some family businesses in transition choose to install a board for which a family may or may not be included as an active member.  Then there are questions about how to reward those who are active and who is not.  A key controversial point is separating out how the board interacts between family members and management.  It’s common to have misconceptions about the issue such that family members and board members keep inserting themselves into management issues.  Conflict typically arises.  Employees can be left feeling undermined and unappreciated.  Expenses due to turn-over of personnel are a costly problem.

Family business issues tend to be centered around:  1. Capital – how financial resources are allocated. 2. Control – Who has decision-making power. 3. Career – how individuals are selected for senior leadership and governance positions. 4. Conflict – how to prevent poor behaviors from becoming the default pattern. 5. Culture – how family values are reflected through to owners, employees, and younger family members

NLP Skills offer several solutions, including: 

  • Behavior Modeling“If anyone can do it; you can do it!” Behavior Modeling is the central protocol used in developing the NLP technology.  If experience has structure, you can elicit how the behavior works and install it in yourself and in others.  NLP techniques tend to model systems, models, and people.
  • Outcome Formation – (Goal-setting) The linguistic preference among NLP Practitioners is for the word ‘outcome’ vs ‘goals.’  People tend to be conditioned and therefor believe that you can ‘fail’ or ‘succeed’ to accomplish a goal.  NLP people tend to ‘not believe in’ failure.  On the other hand, you are going to get an ‘outcome’ one way or the other.  Highly successful people, according to NLP Practioner’s keep varying their approach until they do succeed. The evaluation of failure would only create a ‘state’ and body chemistry that would be unresourceful.  If you don’t believe in failure, you’ll probably find a better solution because you can keep an eye on the goal and you’ll more likely keep trying new things.  Inside family systems, it can be more complicated to create goals as outcomes since there are so many levels to consider.
  • State Mastery‘State Creates Ability!’ An individual typically must be in the proper state to produce excellent results.  Excellent family systems, for example, go beyond what is considered normal behavior levels to create positive results.
  • Rapport Skills – Rapport skills are taught along with the underlying belief that when you meet people at their view of the world first, you will know where to interact, or intervene, in the system that is the person, group, or organization.
  • Listening Skills – Listening includes the entire communication loop.  Effective communication is about delivering information the way the subject needs to receive it. ‘The Meaning of Your Communication is the response you are getting.’
  • Conflict Resolution – From the NLP point of view (POV), the conflict resolutions strategy is a process of finding positive intent of each conflicting part and then adding resourceful new choices that are consistent with underlying values.
  • Family Systems – one of the people modeled in creating what NLP has become was Virginia Satir.  Satir, the foremost Family Therapist of her time, modeled how to elicit high quality information in family groups to find the ‘lynchpin’ or ‘fulcrum point’ from which family dynamics could be ecologically ‘unraveled’ and changed.
  • Anchoring – Specific states are inherent in any behavior.  ‘State Creates Ability!’  Anchoring is NLP terminology for paired stimulus response or ‘classical conditioning’ popularized by Ivan Pavlov’s research with dogs.
  • Total-Win Negotiating – Modeled from the Harvard School of Law’s, Negotiation Project in the 1970’s, Total-Win (or Principled) Negotiating gives individuals a model for creating specific steps toward a mindset from which ‘mutual options’ are a natural outgrowth.  Even highly charged emotional situations can be switched to a ‘principled’ basis.  An idea is promoted that a mature relationship can reach where a foundation is established so that minor disagreements no longer threaten the entire relationship.  Beneath this foundation, parties will never again go.  It means the relationship is solid and a belief is that ‘anything can be worked out in a conversation.’
  • Emotional Clean-upIt tends to be counter intuitive for most people, but a sincere apology has four parts and can take any breakdown and transform it into a stronger relationship and a more powerful way to create a future by design instead of by default.
  • Other areas of focus including finance, accounting, insurance, investing, leadership development, and strategic planning.

For more information about about solutions to your family business success, please contact Bill.  CALL: 602 321-7192.