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?

Ryan T. Sauers is the president of Sauers Consulting Strategies. The firm consults with the front end of printing and related organizations across the U.S. Key focus areas include: sales growth, brand positioning, organizational communications, organizational strategy, and integrated marketing. Sauers is a national speaker and writes feature articles in global publications. He is also an adjunct university professor teaching leadership, communication, and entrepreneurship to business leaders. Sauers has been recognized as a thought leader in human behavior. He is a Certified Myers Briggs and DiSC Practitioner, as well as a Certified Marketing Executive. He is working on his Doctoral degree in Organizational Leadership and will achieve certification in Emotional Intelligence later this year. Sauers is author of the best-selling books: "Everyone is in Sales" and "Would You Buy from You?" Visit:

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  • Joe Strader

    If it someone I know or with whom I have worked I send a simple message. If they do not know me, I will send an InMail first, explaining why I would like to connect and that they will be getting a request. It is usually because I have a past relationship with the organization and a person that may no longer be there.