Family Business or Family Feud?

Small businesses are often owned and managed by two or more family members. In my work with systems, I’ve interacted with many management combinations at family-owned businesses—brothers, sisters, father and son, husband and wife, etc.—and I know first-hand the challenges they face. The main one is how to keep from permanently damaging relationships, as family members are in constant contact as they deal with the stresses of the business. That stress is especially magnified in times like these.

I’ve seen two sides of the coin in family-owned businesses:

  • Heads— Everything is great…making a lot of money…we’re the owners—call us in the Bahamas.
  • Tails—Everything stinks…barely making a living…too many chiefs—call us anytime day or night (we will be right here, stuck in the office).

There’s a workable solution for businesses afflicted with family troubles, and it’s not a flip of the coin that determines winners and losers. Winners are always seeking improvement—in themselves and the environment around them. And I’m not talking about trees!

So keep reading, and open your mind and your heart—begin seeking knowledge about how to build up an inheritance for those brothers, sisters, sons and daughters coming behind. Remember, it’s not about any ONE family member!

A sad thing to witness is, many second-generation business owners (or soon to be owners) don’t always appreciate what they have or are about to inherit—what their family has actually accomplished. If they are honest, they will consider how many people in America ever own a business, or even have the courage to start one—many with little to no resources.

If they are honest, they will come to the conclusion that precious few have what it takes to start a business, and even fewer can make it work past the fifth year! If it was easy, everyone would do it—everyone would own a business.

In the minds of some heirs, if everything seems to be coming up roses and it feels like they’ve hit the jackpot, it’s “HEADS—WE WIN,” with little thought given to what actually made the business possible to begin with. It can be dangerous when would-be heirs haven’t been properly prepared and trained to take the wheel. They are liable to drive the business into a ditch, with them having to leave the Bahamas sooner than expected and wondering what in the world happened!

Philip Beyer, founder/president of Beyer Printing and Ebiz Products LLC in Nashville, TN, is a chronic entrepreneur, business systems analyst and consultant, author of "System Busters: How to Stop Them in Your Business," and an InterTech Award recipient for the design and development of System100™ business process management software. Philip speaks to business owners across the country on how to bring lean, sustainable order to their businesses.
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  • Dan Halmar

    Really good stuff here, Phillip. Thanks for the courage to tread on this thin ice!