Family Business coaching occurs when families are in business together. Usually a parent (typically the father or grandfather, but occasionally the mother) starts the business and builds it from humble beginnings to a profitable business over time. It might be a first generation family business, or for example, a business of longevity being a fourth or fifth generation.
Families can be complex networks at the best of times and provide intriguing interactions with agendas and 'sub-texts' of all kinds being played out. However, when there is both Power and Money involved, the agendas become larger and more emotional and often more devastating.
Frequently, the so-called agendas get more complex and intense too when there is a divorce or separation or when marriages occur such as when the children marry and their partners perhaps begin to have influence or persuasive power over their spouse.
More often than not Egos get involved and emotions such as anger and then resentment or depression and sadness set in and start to destroy families that once communicated and interacted well and that once loved and cared for each other.
The result is devastation, hurt, and chaos. Sometimes, the damage is irretrievable. Sometimes, the relationships deteriorate to such an extent that family members do not talk to each other and have nothing to do with each other. And the pain never goes away...
It doesn't have to be that way.
As Professor Randel S Carlock reminded us at the August, 2013 FBA National Conference in Hobart, Tasmania;
"Family businesses fail not because of the business, but because of the family."
The major questions usually surround issues such as:
Succession planning -- Who will take over and when? Does it have to be a family member? Who is considered the most desirable successor? Is the current person in charge ready to give over the reins, and if not, what needs to happen to transfer the power and running of the business?
Who works in the business? -- Who wants to work in the business and what might their role be not only in the early stages, but as they progress through the company? Who is going to mentor them as they progress or do we simply leave it up to "luck" or "good fortune?" How do we manage others in the business when they see the "off-spring" joining the company?
When do they join the business? -- Do they join straight from school or do they gain outside experience first and if so, for how long? If outside the business for a period, who monitors their progress and what skills and abilities they are acquiring?
Who gets what when? -- Are some family members silent shareholders, and if so, what is their dividend and when does it come?
Is only the family involved? -- Who makes the decisions re the family business? Is it just the family of origin (eg, mother, father and children) or does it also include the extended family (eg, wives, husbands, children of the original children etc)? What role, if any, do the out-laws (extended family) have? Can they too work in the business?
While it is certainly true that Family Business Advisors range across many fields (eg., Behavioural Science or Psychology, Law, Management and Finance), it is often the complexities of communication and relationships that can deeply interfere with the running of a profitable business.
So in what areas does the 'psychology advisor' assist in the area of family business?
Family Functioning & Relationships
Communication (& Lack of)
Ethics & Values
Listening & Facilitating
Parallel Planning the Business and the Family Hand-in-Hand
(Table presented by Prof RS Carlock, in presentation titled, "Family Business Advisor
Master Class," FBA National Conference, 22 August, 2013 held in Hobart, Tasmania)
The process of resolving these issues does not happen overnight (they weren't created overnight either!), but it involves communicating with each family member, understanding the concerns and endeavouring to bring about a consensus.
Sometimes, some family member's egos are difficult to shift, but the process is still the same, Communication and Consensus.
In many cases, this process starts with:
(1) An understanding of who we all are in the family. Self-awareness is a hallmark of leadership. What are our strengths? What are our differences? How would you describe each other? Can we appreciate each other's strengths and differences?
(2) There is often a need for an examination of what each individual stands for. What are his or her values? What's important to them? And what therefore, based on the individual's values are the values of the family? What does the family stand for?
(3) There is often the need to learn how to communicate effectively. How do we really listen to each other? How do we stop rehearsing in our head what we are going to say as soon as we can grab a conversational opening in order to sort them out! How do we stop interrupting or talking over each other? How do we communicate on sensitive matters? How do we handle conflict or disagreement?
(4) There is usually the need to put down the rules or guidelines of the family. What do we understand are the rules for being employed, terminated, and remunerated? What are the rules for succession and so on? Better to sort out the so-called rules around the kitchen table than around the courtroom when inevitably, relationships are damaged irretrievably and assets are lost in court fees.
One tool for assisting this whole communication process and gaining consensus on the 'rules' is called the Family Charter (sometimes called a family constitution). This is a written agreement and a kind of contract between family members. It's the rules and policies that the family agree on and is usually based on a discussion first up on family values and what's important and what the family stands for.
This process of determining how to move forward is where an independent Coach can talk to individual members, talk to the group as a whole, and open up the lines of communication so that the family can resolve any issues and not be left with "unfinished business" in the form of bad feelings and resentment.
A tall order maybe given that some families entrench themselves into corners, egos rule the day, and then when they are all in crisis, they call in the Consultant "Rehabilitative" Coach.
Proactive families see the issues coming long before they arrive and call in the Consultant "Preventative" Coach as a wise protective measure.
The motto is of course, "the earlier the better".