In my last blog I spoke about one of the biggest risks to the successful transition of a family business – poor communication among family members. Related to this is family dynamics. It is often thought that one of the best ways to address this risk, is to involve the inactive spouse and all of the business owner’s children in the succession planning process.
The challenge of a family business is that business and personal lives intersect such that family conflict ends up finding its way into the business or is simply not addressed. Then there is the added challenge of family members who are active in the business and those that are inactive. For the inactive family members, they may feel disconnected from those family members that are active in the business. If these feelings become entrenched, they can lead to breakdown in family relations.
While good communications does not eliminate conflict, it can help reduce the risk of conflict. If you are advising a family on the succession process or you are a business owner involved in succession, a professional family business facilitator can be a very useful person to engage as part of your overall strategy. Specifically, they can help your family develop good communication skills, as well as tools for avoiding conflict from happening and addressing it when it does. Ultimately the role of a facilitator is to create an environment of trust within the family group, such that family members know there is a “safe space” for them to communicate. In addition, they will work towards ensuring all family members respect each other in a manner that allows everyone to “be heard”. When an impasse in communication does occur, they will ensure the family has developed the tools to work through and move beyond the impasse.
Working with a facilitator is not something every business owner will embrace. It does require an ability to allow another person to control the communication process. Sharing control is not something most business owners are willing to do. However, where a business owner has recognized that she or he is not necessarily the most appropriate person to manage the process, engaging a facilitator has the potential to ensure a family business does successfully transition. The upshot being avoiding the family business from being among the statistics of failed transitions.
Finding a good facilitator is often an exercise in working through one’s network of contacts. The reason for this is that the best facilitators are those who have achieved positive results for other family businesses. So, if you make the decision to take a step towards a successful succession plan by engaging a facilitator, reach out to your network to determine who to connect with.
Have a great weekend!