Successful family businesses do this

Successful family businesses do this


Written by Tracey

January 20, 2023

In family life, love is the oil that eases friction, the cement that binds us closer together, and the music that brings harmony. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

I was responsible for putting the pinks in alpha order, double checking the math (I was failing at math) and as I got older – eventually posting them to our accounting system. Our legal services were high in volume, low in cost so there were a lot of “pinks”. We had a client roster of over 200 proudly serving local law firms, banks and real estate companies, not bad for a former blue collar worker (my Dad) from the Goodyear Tire Factory in Scotland.

Our monthly stack of pinks were huge, a great testament to my parents’ commitment to excellence and outstanding customer service. Bad news for a kid who didn’t get the value of the huge stacks of “pinks” looming in the corner of the “tv room”.

Our dinner conversations sometimes involved those “pinks” and over time I grew accustomed to my parents’ steady conversation about “the business”.  Although our business had a physical location, our business followed us into our home. The business was us and we were the business. At times it was difficult to see where it stopped and we began.

I watched my Dad work long hours, emotionally and physically. At one point “the business” gave him ulcers and kept him pacing the floor at night.  My Mum worked a gruelling full time job while continuing to support my Dad in the business. Mum was the financial wizard and Dad was all about connection and relationship. Together they were a great team. I watched, I learned and brick by brick my work ethic and business knowledge built.

Over the years I made friends with those “pinks” and grew really fond of them. Especially when I bought into the business and finally had a stake in the game.  Oh how our relationship changed as did my relationship with my parents. With the stroke of a pen, the exchange of shares, handshakes 

and many meetings with accountants we became business partners. Overnight our family dynamic changed dramatically, and we weren’t prepared for what lay ahead nor the shift in our individual objectives to the business. Things got serious, intense at times as both generations forged ahead with their own appropriate agendas and objectives.

Until… what my parents wanted/needed from the business flew immediately in the face of what we wanted/needed from the business in order to sustain it. Both of us were right and eventually we found a happy balance however, the experience was unpleasant and now from complete responsibility I can see my parents’ perspective.

Since hindsight is 20/20 what I see now is that I unconsciously slipped into the role of child rather than business partner.  Conversations occurred as personal rather than strategic. I couldn’t see it at the time, I was in the weeds of it all. It is a good lesson for anyone involved in a family business.

A self check of where I was speaking from would have supported me to shift back to business partner, “Am I speaking from business partner or family member?”.  “What would I say right now if I were to shift my perspective to business partner?”  “What works for the business?”

My best advice is to stay focused on the long term goals of the business and ensure that the decisions are what’s right for the business.

What we couldn’t see, the conflict that ensued and the impact of my interpretations cost time, money and eventually led to the sale of our family business. This doesn’t have to be you. 

Join our one of a kind, Bomb Proof Executive Program, learn how your own inner listening is dictating the choices you make and limiting your perspective.

Written by Tracey

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