The most wonderful time of the year?

Christmas can be an emotionally charged time for all families.For families in business together, Christmas can be even more difficult to navigate, and unresolved tensions may surface. If you experience this over the festive period, please bear the following in mind.

You are not alone

Family businesses have inherent characteristics that other owner managed businesses don’t have. These characteristics have the potential to be a source of competitive advantage or to be a source of tension. In other words, what can make your family business can also break your family business and it is the way that you manage those characteristics that will make the difference.

For example, each family member within a family business will hold many different roles at the same time. You may be wife, mother, CEO, sister, employee and owner (please see the figure below).

the three circle model

There are times when those roles will become confused. You may be being critical of a fellow family board member because of some difficult history between you, rather than for objective business reasons. Family favoritism might be causing resentment in the business.

At least two thirds of all businesses in the UK are family owned. It therefore stands to reason that many businesses out there have been through what you are going through. You are not alone.

Get to know your family business

By this I mean get to know what your family business system looks like. A good starting point is to plot all of the key players in the family and the business on the three circle model (above).

In my experience, this is always an “a-ha” moment for clients as it becomes really clear where the challenges may lie in their particular family business and what may be behind some of the challenges that they are facing.

Don’t be afraid to reach out

Speak to other family businesses that have been in your shoes. They may be able to offer a fresh perspective and also offer hope that issues that may feel insurmountable can in fact be dealt with.

Addressing the challenges in family businesses can be difficult to do from the inside. Family issues can be teeming with emotion and it is easy for family members to misinterpret each other’s motives for wanting to address the issues. A family business consultant can really help families to move forward in a constructive way.

If tensions bubble to the surface during this festive period, use it as a catalyst for change, so that your family business attributes can be used for competitive advantage and to strengthen, not weaken, family bonds in 2020.

Emma Rudge
Consultant
The Family Business Consultancy
www.thefbc.co.uk