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Perception IS Reality

By Ryan Sauers

About Ryan

Ryan T. Sauers is president of Sauers Consulting Strategies and spent nearly 20 years leading printing and promotional product companies prior to founding the firm. The organization consults with printing and promotional product related companies across the country, helping them grow the front end of their organization. Sauers is working on his Doctoral degree in Organizational Leadership and is the author of the top-selling book “Everyone Is in Sales”, with another book in the works.  He is a Certified Myers Briggs Type Indicator and DiSC Practitioner and Certified Marketing Executive. Ryan writes national feature articles and speaks at national conferences on such topics as sales, marketing, communications, leadership, organizational strategy and social media. He is also an adjunct university professor. More info at

Conflict and the Family Business

I have watched, been involved with and consulted for, many family businesses. This gives me “pseudo expert” status in this niche. It also means I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly—and family businesses possess all three. The printing industry is one where family members, as a general rule, are involved in a large number of the companies. So what does this mean to us in terms of conflict?

The way family members behave at work is oftentimes a carryover from their interpersonal family relationships. I have seen some of the funniest, craziest and perplexing stuff in family business communications at the workplace. First, however, let me stress that I have a passion for working with family businesses and many of our clients are family-run printing establishments. In addition, let us never forget that family businesses are quite complex. And, in some cases, although the non-family members would not believe this, they are actually more difficult to work at as a family member.

One of the consistent conflict areas I witness is the great difference in opinion between the various generations in regard to where the printing company should be headed. In other words, there is frustration (conflict) between the first, second or third (etc.) generations because they are not on the same page. Why? Because various generations are looking at things from different vantage points/ages, etc. The key is to get everyone to look at things from the others’ perspectives.

Our world has changed forever with the rapid manner that all communication takes place. In fact, I will be addressing this topic in my second book, which I began writing last week. More to come on that. So here a few common family printing business questions to consider. Which sibling of the upcoming generation will oversee what function? Who has ownership of what or final say of what? Just because a person is a family member, do they automatically get to have a high salary, title and responsibility? How does the current generation running the company plan to let go and transition the new generation into the mix? Do they even want to?

You would not believe how hard it is for many owners who are currently running a printing business to sit down and willingly talk about how they will transition the company and, in time, step aside. I understand this is hard…as this is the company they built or helped build. However, a company must have a life of its own and making time for such strategic planning is vital.

Again, many family run printing companies have no formal plan of how future transitions will work. Oftentimes, the upcoming generation sees things that need to be done, but the current generation is not eager to listen. In contrast, the generation running the company feels that younger generations do not appreciate all that has been built and/or is not ready to take over the company. This is where the conflict comes in. My firm specializes in mediating such family conflict and helping a variety of family members come to an agreement on the now and future of the company. This can be done, and is working quite well for those family run companies that desire and commit to overcoming constant conflict.

So, where has your family printing business been? Where is it now? Where is it going? Do you have the right people (family and non-family members) on the team? Have you had an objective party analyze your talent, culture and structure? Could you use an outside perspective from someone who has been there and sees such businesses on a daily basis? If so, why wait to ask for guidance? 

If you need legal advice, you call your attorney. With complicated financial matters, you contact your CPA. When your press goes down, you call in an expert. So when the very future and family members of your printing company are not on the same page, what should you do? Simple; call an expert that specializes in human relations, conflict resolution and interpersonal communications.

By the way, asking for “guidance” to resolve conflict is a sign of strength, not of weakness. So, what are you waiting on?

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