Is your family business fraught with conflict?

chessMany business owners think their particular family business conflict is unique. If it’s any consolation you’re not alone! Conflict is particularly rife in family businesses.

Dealing with conflict in your business is tough. It takes your mind off the game. All you really want is to get the issue handled peacefully and get back to work. But when it’s a conflict in your family business with your family members it can become emotionally charged and turn into a hot-headed argument in no time. Not only do you need to deal with the problem itself, you have to deal with the family dynamics. This is often dangerous ground and something most of us try to avoid like the plague.

Now you’ve got another problem – how to solve the first problem without causing a serious uproar in the family! No matter which way you go family members will be crying “not fair” – all sure their way is the right way and quick to point out where everyone else is wrong. It can threaten productivity, undermine authority and be destructive to your business and your family.

The question is how to solve these conflicts as they arise – in an unemotional and detached manner, without starting a hot-headed riot that causes ongoing animosity and resentment. “Easier said than done” I hear you say. And you’re most likely right – sometimes it’s impossible to sort this out yourself.

If you’ve got to this point and don’t know how to get any further, you could consider asking an outsider to help. All the hard questions and volatile issues could then be dealt with by someone who is not emotionally involved. Don’t be afraid to let someone else deal with it – it’s not a sign of weakness – it’s a very smart decision when it comes to handling explosive issues. Make sure though, that you chose someone who knows and understands your business and is well versed in the dynamics of the family business

Check out this scenario

Malcolm started his own concrete business some 40 years ago. He worked long and hard to build the business to where it is today – an extraordinarily successful and profitable operation. Malcolm’s getting older but still wants to maintain control of his business and the running of it. His family business conflict goes like this –

His son, Sam, is now working in the business with Malcolm. It’s assumed that Sam will one day take over the business when Malcolm retires. Sam’s not interested in learning much about running a business of this magnitude. But he is very interested in all the benefits that come out of the business (financial, flexible time schedule etc.). Not only this, Sam’s attitude and work ethics often fall well short of the mark.

Sam’s wife, Josie, also works in the business. She wants everything her way. This includes controlling the finances and even, it seems, her husband. She’s taken over running the finances of the company and in this role her controlling nature is at its best (or worst, more to the point).

Malcolm wanted to engage a specialist to work for him in the business. Josie didn’t agree with Malcolm. She said there wasn’t enough money to engage this specialist, so it didn’t happen. Sam went along with Josie. Just a few weeks later Josie seemed to find enough money to make other business purchases – those she agreed with of course.

Now you might wonder how Malcolm could let this situation happen. Wasn’t he the business owner after all?

It’s not easy dealing with these kind of problems when your family is involved. That’s why it makes sense to engage an outside specialist to handle the conflicts that arise in your family business.

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