Doug Sippel, Leadership Transitions, LLC.
Depending on your experience, you may have a very positive or a very negative view of a family business. If you grew up in or around a healthy family business, which provided a great place to work for employees, a good living for the owners, and a source of jobs and support to the community, then you have a very positive view of family business. On the other hand, you may be from an unhealthy or failed family business or a professional who gets called in to try to fix the dysfunction and unhealthy behavior. If so then your perspective may be that family and business should never mix.
The Two-By-Four Enterprises business scenario is a great example of a business at the fork in the road. Down one fork is a strong business with healthy governance structures and great leadership. The other fork leads to family conflict and possibly a failed business. Unfortunately, 70% or more of closely held businesses take the second road. Two-By-Four owner, Bob and his wife Margaret Sprout have a wonderful opportunity. They can engage their children and the other leaders in the business to execute a strategy based on a strong shared vision of success, and core values that drive their behavior and decisions.
Do the children have the willingness to learn how to work together to manage their shared wealth? Will Bob and Margaret be willing and able to balance their own needs with those of the next generation? Will they be able to select a new CEO based on the best person for the job, or will they allow family dysfunction or office politics to guide the decision? Time will tell. If Bob and Margaret spend the time to build a strong foundation based on a sound philosophy and strong guiding principles, they will likely be successful. If they approach this work with a beginner’s mind, willing to listen and learn from wise counsel and trusted advisors, as well as their own best instincts, they will travel the narrow road to success.
As Robert Frost reminds us in his poem "The Road not Taken":
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Traveling down this "less traveled" road with the passion and the commitment of the family and the key employees will be challenging and may require learning to communicate in new ways. Choosing this road is the right choice. And that will make all the difference.
Choose wisely Bob and Margaret!
Doug Sippel is founder of Leadership Transitions, LLC. He is a Leadership Coach, Values Consultant, Mediator and Financial Planner. Doug grew up in a multi-generational family business which has prospered through several leadership transitions and maintained strong family unity.