CONFLICTS THAT PLAGUE FAMILY BUSINESSES
Updated: Mar 29, 2022
The job of operating a family-owned company is often grievously complicated by friction arising from rivalries involving a father and his son, brothers, or other family members who hold positions in the business, or at least derive income from it. Unless the principals face up to their feelings of hostility, the author says, the business will suffer and may even die. He offers some advice on how relatives can learn to live with their peculiar situation. But he concludes that the only real solution is to move toward professional management.
In U.S. business, the most successful executives are often men who have built their own companies. Ironically, their very success frequently brings to them and members of their family’s personal problems of an intensity rarely encountered by professional managers. And these problems make family businesses possibly the most difficult to operate.
It is obvious common sense that when managerial decisions are influenced by feelings about and responsibilities toward relatives in the business when nepotism exerts a negative influence, and when a company is run more to honour a family tradition than for its own needs and purposes, there is likely to be trouble.
However, the problems of family businesses go considerably deeper than these issues. In this article, I shall examine some of the more difficult underlying psychological elements in operating these businesses and suggest some ways of coping with them.
They Start with the Founder
The difficulties of the family business begin with the founder. Usually, he is an entrepreneur for whom the business has at least three important meanings:
The entrepreneur characteristically has unresolved conflicts with his father, research evidence indicates. He is therefore uncomfortable when being supervised, and starts his own business both to outdo his father and to escape the authority and rivalry of more powerful figures.
An entrepreneur’s business is simultaneously his “baby” and his “mistress.” Those who work with him and for him are characteristically his instruments in the process of shaping the organization. If any among them aspires to be other than a device for the founder - that is, if he wants to acquire power himself - he is soon likely to find himself on the outside looking in. This is the reason why so many organizations decline when their founder's age or die.
For the entrepreneur, the business is essentially an extension of himself, a medium for his personal gratification and achievement above all. And if he is concerned about what happens to his business after he passes on, that concern usually takes the form of thinking of the kind of monument he will leave behind.
The fundamental psychological conflict in family businesses is rivalry, compounded by feelings of guilt when more than one family member is involved. The rivalry may be felt by the founder - even though no relatives are in the business -when he unconsciously senses (justifiably or not) that subordinates are threatening to remove him from his center of power. Consider this actual case:
An entrepreneur, whose organization makes scientific equipment and bears his name, has built a sizable enterprise in international markets. He has said that he wants his company to be noted all over the world for contributing to society.
He has attracted many young men with the promise of rapid promotions, but he guarantees their failure by giving them assignments and then turning them loose without adequate organizational support. He intrudes into the young men’s decision-making, but he counterbalances this behaviour with paternalistic devices. (His company has more benefits than any other I have known.)
This technique makes his subordinates angry at him for what he has done, then angry at themselves for being hostile to such a kind man. Ultimately, it makes them feel utterly inadequate. He can get people to take responsibility and move up into executive positions, but his behaviour has made certain that he will never have a rival.
The conflicts created by rivalries among family members - between fathers and sons, among brothers, and between executives and other relatives have a chronically abrasive effect on the principals Those family members in the business must face the impact that these relationships exert must learn to deal with them, not only for their emotional health but for the welfare of the business.
I shall consider in turn the father-son rivalry, the brother-brother rivalry, and other family relationships.
As I have indicated, for the founder the business is an instrument, an extension of himself. So, he has great difficulty giving up his baby, his mistress, his instrument, his source of social power, or whatever else the business may mean to him. Characteristically, he has great difficulty delegating authority and he also refuses to retire despite repeated promises to do so.
This behavior has certain implications for father-son relationships. While he consciously wishes to pass his business on to his son and also wants him to attain his place in the sun, unconsciously the father feels that to yield the business would be to lose his masculinity.
At the same time, and also unconsciously, he needs to continue to demonstrate his own competence. That is, he must constantly reassure himself that he alone is competent to make “his” organization succeed. Unconsciously the father does not want his son to win, take away his combination baby and mistress, and displace him from his summit position.
These conflicting emotions cause the father to behave inexplicably in a contradictory manner, leading those close to him to think that while on the one hand, he wants the business to succeed, on the other hand, he is determined to make it fail.
The son’s feelings of rivalry are a reflection of his father’s. The son naturally seeks increasing responsibility commensurate with his growing maturity, and the freedom to act responsibly on his own. But he is frustrated by his father’s intrusions, his broken promises of retirement, and his self-aggrandizement.
The son resents being kept in an infantile role - always the little boy in his father’s eyes - with the accompanying contempt, condescension, and lack of confidence that in such a situation frequently characterize the father’s attitude. He resents, too, remaining dependent on his father for his income level and, as often, for title, office, promotion, and the other usual perquisites of an executive. The father’s erratic and unpredictable behaviour in these matters makes this dependency more unpalatable.
I have observed a number of such men who, even as company presidents, are still being victimized by their fathers who remain chairmen of the board and chief executive officers.
‘Why Don’t You Let Me Grow Up?’
Characteristically, fathers and sons, particularly the latter, are terribly torn by these conflicts; the father looks on the son as ungrateful and unappreciative, and the son feels both hostile to his father and guilty for his hostility.
The father bears the feeling that the son never will be man enough to run the business, but he tries to hide that feeling from his son. The son yearns for his chance to run it and waits impatiently but still loyally in the wings—often for years beyond the age when others in nonfamily organizations normally take executive responsibility—for his place on the stage.
If the pressures become so severe for him that he thinks of leaving, he feels disloyal but at the same time fears losing the opportunity that would be his if he could only wait a little longer. He defers his anticipated gratification and pleasure, but, with each postponement, his anger, disappointment, frustration, and tension mount. Here is a typical situation I know of:
Matthew Anderson, a man who founded a reclaimed-metals business, has two sons. John, the elder, is his logical successor, but Anderson has given him little freedom to act independently, pointing out that, despite limited education, he (the father) has built the business and intuitively knows more about how to make it successful.
Though he has told John that he wants him to be a partner, he treats John more like a flunky than an executive, let alone a successor. He pays the elder son a small salary, always with the excuse that he should not expect more because someday he will inherit the business. He grants minimal raises sporadically, never recognizing John’s need to support his family in a style fitting his position in the company.
When John once protested and demanded both more responsibility and more income, his father gave Henry, the second son, a vice presidential title and a higher income. When Henry asked for greater freedom and responsibility, Anderson turned back to John and made him president (in name only). The father, as chairman of the board and chief executive officer, continued to second-guess John, excluded Henry from conferences (which of course increased John’s feelings of guilt), and told John that Henry was “no good” and could not run the business.
Later, when John sought to develop new aspects of the business to avoid the fluctuations of the metals market, his father vetoed these ideas, saying, “This is what we know, and this is what we are going to do.” He failed to see the possible destructive effects of market cycles on fixed overhead costs and the potential inroads of plastics and other cheaper materials into the reclaimed-metals business.
The upshot was that profits declined and the business became more vulnerable to both domestic and foreign (particularly Japanese) competition. When John argued with his father about this, he got the response: “What do you know? You’re still green. I went through the Depression.” Once again Anderson turned to Henry - making the black sheep white, and vice versa.
Angered, John decided to quit the business, but his mother said, “You can’t leave your father; he needs you.” Anderson accused him of being ungrateful, but he also offered to retire, as he had promised to do several times before.
Despite his pain, John could not free himself from his father. (Only an ingrate would desert his father, he told himself.) Also, John knew that if he departed, he could not go into competition with his father, because that would destroy him. But John shrank from entering an unfamiliar business.
Nevertheless, from time to time John has explored other opportunities while remaining in the business. But each time his father has undercut him. For instance, John once wanted to borrow money for a venture, but Anderson told the bankers that his son was not responsible.
Now, when John is middle-aged, he and his father are still battling. In effect John is asking, “Why don’t you let me grow up?” and his father is answering, “I’m the only man around here. You must stay here and be my boy.”
‘He’s Destroying the Business’
The son also has intense rivalry feelings, of course. These, too, can result in fierce competition with his father and hostile rejection of him, or abject dependence on him. Sometimes the competition can lead to a manipulative alignment with the mother against him. Consider this actual case:
Bill Margate, a recent business school graduate, knew that he would go into his father’s electronic components business. But he decided that first, he should get experience elsewhere, so he spent four years with a large manufacturing company. From his education and experience, he became aware of how unsophisticated his father was about running the business and set about showing the senior Margate how a business should be professionally managed.
Margate can do no right in Bill’s eyes, at least not according to the books which he has read but which his father has never heard of. Bill frequently criticizes his father, showing him how ignorant he is. When Margate calls his son “green,” Bill retorts, “I’ve forgotten more about managing a business than you’ll ever know.”
Bill’s mother is also involved in the business; she has been at her husband’s side for many years, though their relationship is less than the best. Mrs. Margate dotes on her son and complains to him about her husband, and she encourages Bill in his attacks on his father. When Bill undertook several ventures that floundered, she excused the failures as being caused by his father’s interference.
But whenever the father-son battle reaches a peak, Mrs. Margate shifts allegiance and stands behind her husband. So the senior Margate has an ally when the chips are down, at the price of a constant beating until he gets to that point.
The struggle for the business has remained a stand-off. But as the elder Margate has grown older, his son’s attacks have begun to tell on him. Bill has urged him to take long Florida vacations, but Margate refuses because he fears what would happen when his back is turned. For the same reason, he does not permit Bill to sign checks for the company.
Now Margate has become senile, and Bill’s criticism of him continues, even in public. “He’s destroying the business,” Bill will say.
However, Bill cannot act appropriately to remove his father (even though he is now incompetent) because of his guilt feelings about his incessant attacks. That would destroy his father, literally, and he cannot bring himself to do it.
‘The Old Man Really Built It’
The problem for the son becomes especially acute when and if he does take over. Often the father has become obsolete in his managerial conceptions. The organization may have grown beyond one man’s capacity to control it effectively. That man may have been a star whose imagination, creativity, or drive are almost impossible to duplicate. He may also have been a charismatic figure with whom employees and even the public identified.
Whatever the combination of factors, the son is likely to have to take over an organization with many weaknesses hidden behind the powerful facade of the departed leader. For these reasons many businesses, at the end of their founders’ tenure, fall apart, are pirated, or are merged into another organization.
The Ford Motor Company, at the demise of Henry Ford, was a case in point; completely new management had to be brought in. Henry Ford II was faced with the uncomfortable task of having to regenerate a company that appeared to have the potential for continued success, but which, according to some, could easily have gone bankrupt.
While the son is acting to repair the organizational weaknesses left by his father, he is subject to the criticism of those persons who, envious of his position, are waiting for him to stumble. They “know” that he is not as good as his father. If he does less well than his father, regardless of whether there are unfavorable economic conditions or other causes, he is subject to the charge of having thrown away an opportunity that others could have capitalized on.
The scion cannot win. If he takes over a successful enterprise, and even if he makes it much more successful than anyone could have imagined, nevertheless the onlookers stimulate his feelings of inadequacy. They say, “What did you expect? After all, look what he started with.” To illustrate:
Tom Schlesinger, the president of a restaurant chain, inherited the business after his father had built a profitable regional network of outlets with a widely known name—a model for the industry.
Tom has expanded it into nearly a national operation. He has done this with astute methods of finance that allow great flexibility, and with effective control methods that maintain meal quality and at the same time minimizing waste. By any standards, he has made an important contribution to the business.
But those who remember his father cannot see what Tom has done because the aura of his father still remains. They tend to minimize Tom’s contribution with such observations as, “Well, you know, the old man really built that business.”
Tom cannot change the attitude of those who knew his father, and he feels it is important to keep lauding his father’s accomplishments in order to present a solid family image to employees, customers, and the community. But he is frustrated because he has no way of getting the world to see how well he has done.
The father-son rivalry is matched in intensity by the brother-brother rivalry. Their competition may be exacerbated by the father if he tries to play the sons off against each other or has decided that one should wear his mantle, as I showed previously. (In my experience, the greatest difficulties of this kind occur when there are only two brothers in the organization.)
The problem is further complicated if their mother and their wives are also directly or indirectly involved in the business. Mothers have their favourites - regardless of what they say - and each wife, of course, has a stake in her husband’s position. He can become a foil for his wife’s fantasies and ambitions.
The rivalry between brothers for their father’s approval, which began in childhood, continues into adult life. It can reach such an intensity that it colours every management decision and magnifies the jockeying for power that goes on in all organizations. Consider this situation:
Arthur, five years older than his sibling, is president, and Warren is an operating vice president, of the medium-sized retailing organization which they inherited. To anyone who cares to listen, each maintains that he can get along very well without the other.
Arthur insists that Warren is not smart, not as good a businessman as he; that his judgment is bad; and that even if given the chance, he would be unable to manage the business.
Warren asserts that when the two were growing up, Arthur considered him to be a competitor, but for his part, he (Warren) did not care to compete because he was younger and smaller. Warren says that he cannot understand why his older brother has always acted as if they were rivals, and adds, “I just want a chance to do my thing. If he’d only let me alone with responsibility! But he acts as if the world would fall apart if I had that chance.”
Every staff meeting and meeting of the board (which includes nonfamily members) becomes a battle between the brothers. Associates, employees, and friends back off because they decline to take sides. The operation of the organization has been turned into a continuous family conflict.
Ordinarily, the elder brother succeeds his father. But this custom reaffirms the belief of the younger brother (or brothers) that the oldest is indeed the favourite. In any event, the older brother often has a condescending attitude toward the younger. In their earliest years, the older is larger, physically stronger, more competent, and more knowledgeable than the younger merely because of the difference in age, as in the case I just cited.
Only in rare instances does the younger brother have the opportunity to match the skills, competence, and experience of the elder until they reach adulthood. By that time the nature of this relationship is so well established that the older brother has difficulty regarding the younger one as adequate and competent.
Moreover, the eldest child is earlier and longer in contact with the parents, and their control efforts fall more heavily on him. Consequently, older children tend to develop stronger consciences, drive themselves harder, expect more of themselves, and control themselves more rigidly than younger ones. Being already, therefore, a harsh judge of himself, the eldest is likely to be an even harsher judge of his younger siblings.
…and the Younger
The younger brother attempts to compensate for the effects of this childhood relationship and his older brother’s efforts to control him by trying to carve out a place in the business that is his own. This he guards with great zeal, keeping the older brother out so he can demonstrate to himself, his brother, and others that he is indeed competent and has his own piece of the action for which he is independently responsible.
If the brothers own equal shares in the organization and both are members of the board, as is frequently the case, the problems are compounded. On the board, they can argue policy from equally strong positions. However, when they return to operations in which one is subordinate to the other, the subordinate one, usually the junior brother, finds it extremely difficult to think of himself in a subservient role.
The younger one usually is unable to surmount this problem in their mutual relationship. He tends to be less confident than his brother and considers himself to be at a permanent disadvantage, always overcontrolled, always unheeded. Since the older brother views the younger one as being less able, he becomes involved in self-fulfilling prophecies. Distrusting his younger brother, he is likely to over-control him, give him less opportunity for freedom and responsibility -which in turn make for maturity and growth - and likely to reject all signs of the younger brother’s increasing competence.
If for some reason the younger brother displaces the older one, and particularly if the latter becomes subordinate to him, the younger brother is faced with feelings of guilt for having attacked the elder and usurped what so often is accepted as the senior brother’s rightful role.
The problems of the father and brothers extend to other relatives when they, too, become involved in the business. In some families, it is expected that all who wish to join the company will have a place there. This can have devastating effects, particularly if the jobs are sinecures.
The chief executive of a family business naturally feels a heavy responsibility for the family fortunes. If he does not produce a profit, the effect on what he considers to be his image in the financial markets may mean less to him than the income reduction which members of his family will suffer. So, he is vulnerable to backbiting from persons whom he knows only too well and whom he cannot dismiss as faceless. Consider this case:
Three brothers started a knitting business. Only one of the brothers had sons, and only one of those sons stayed in the business; he eventually became president. The stock is held by the family. Two widowed aunts, his mother, his female cousins (one of whom was already widowed), and his brother, a practicing architect, depending on the business for significant income.
When business is off, the women complain. If the president wants to buy more equipment, they resist. If they hear complaints from employees or merchant friends, they make these complaints known at family gatherings. The president is never free from the vixens who are constantly criticizing and second-guessing him.
Perhaps more critical for the health of the business are the factional divisions that spring up in the organization as associates and subordinates choose the family members with whom they want to be identified. (Often, however, those who take sides discover that in a crisis the family unites against “outsiders,” including their partisans, who are then viewed as trying to divide the family.)
If the nonfamily employees or board members decide not to become involved in a family fight and withdraw from relations with its members until the conflict is resolved, the work of the organization may be paralyzed. Worse yet, the dispute may eventually embroil the entire organization, resulting in conflicts at the lowest levels, as employees try to cope with the quarrels thrust on them.
Now the business has become a battleground that produces casualties but no peace. Such internecine warfare constitutes a tremendous barrier to communication and frustrates adequate planning and rational decision-making.
A business in which numerous members of the family of varying ages and relationships are involved often becomes painfully disrupted around issues of empires and succession. Its units tend to become family-member territories and therefore poorly integrated organizationally, if at all.
As for succession, the dominant or patriarchal leader may fully expect to pass on the mantle of leadership to other, elder relatives in their turn. He may even promise them leadership roles, particularly if he has had to develop a coalition to support his position.
But for both realistic and irrational reasons he may well come to feel that none of the family members is capable of filling the role. He cannot very well disclose his decision, however, without stirring conflict, and he cannot bring in outside managers without betraying his relatives or reneging on his promises. On the other hand, he fears what would happen if he died without having designated a successor.
He may decide that the only way out is to sell the business (at least each relative will then get his fair share). But that solution is costly - it signifies not only the loss of the business as a means of employment, but also the betrayal of a tradition and, inevitably, the dissolution of close family ties that have been maintained through the medium of the business.
Facing Up to It
What can be done about these problems?
Most entrepreneurial fathers seem unable to resolve their dilemmas themselves. They tend to be rigid and righteous, finding it difficult to understand that there is another, equally valid point of view that they can accept without becoming weaklings. Well-meaning outsiders who try to help the father see the effects of his behavior and think seriously about succession usually find themselves rejected. Then they lose whatever beneficial influence they may have had on him.
Several approaches have worked well. In some instances, sons have told their fathers that they recognize how important it is to the father to run his own business, but it is just as important for them to have the opportunity to “do their own thing.” They then establish small new ventures either under the corporate umbrella or outside it, without deserting their father.
In a variant of this approach, a father who heads a retail operation opened a store in a different community for each of his sons. They do their buying together, with appropriate variations for each community, and maintain a common name and format, but each son runs his own operation while the father continues to run his.
In still another situation, the father merged his company into a larger one. Each of his two sons then became president of a subsidiary, and the father started a new venture while serving as a policy guide to his sons.
The Son’s Role
Whether such alternatives can work depends in part on how the son conducts himself. He must be honest with himself and consider his paternal relationship candidly. He must take steps like these:
He must ask himself why he chose to go into the family business. Most sons will say it is because of the opportunity and the feelings of guilt if they had not done so. Often, however, the basic reason is that a powerful father has helped make his son dependent on him, and so his son is reluctant to strike out on his own.
He rationalizes his reluctance on the basis of opportunity and guilt. Struggling with his own dependency, he is more likely to continue to fight his father in the business because he is still trying to escape his father’s control.
Having examined this issue, and recognizing whatever validity it may have for him, the son must realize how often his own feelings of rivalry and anger get in his way. The more intense the rivalry, the more determinedly he seeks to push his father from his throne and the more aggressively the latter must defend himself. The son must therefore refrain from attack.
He must quietly and with dignity, as a mature man, apprise his father of the realities—that he needs an area of freedom and an independent medium to develop skills and responsibilities. He can do so within the company framework or, if that is not feasible, outside it. In his own self-interest, as well as the company’s, he must be certain that he gets the opportunity.
He must not allow himself to be played off against his brother, and he must not allow his guilt to be manipulated. By the same token, he himself must not become involved with others in manipulation.
He must honestly recognize and respect his father’s achievement and competence. Building a business is no mean task, and usually, the father still has useful skills and knowledge. Furthermore, the son should recognize the powerful psychological meaning of the business to his father and not expect him to be rational about his relationship with it.
If the son is still unable to make choices about what he wants to do, then, despite his pain and his father’s reluctance to seek help, he himself must do so. Only he can take the initiative to relieve his anguish. Here is an example of how a group of sons has taken the initiative:
In Boston, a group calling itself SOB’s (Sons of the Boss) has been formed to encourage men in that position to talk over common problems and share solutions. After educating themselves about the psychological dimensions of their situation, the group will make it a practice from time to time to invite their fathers as a group to discuss their problems openly. Then fathers and sons will get together separately.
This procedure may enable fathers and sons to realize that their particular problems are not unique to themselves and to obtain support from those in a similar predicament.
Another approach for a son would be to ask his father to read this article and then discuss it privately with a neutral third party of their choice, to develop a perspective on their feelings and behaviour. Having done so, a father is then in a better position to talk with his son, in the presence of a third party.
The third person must use his good offices to subdue recrimination. At the same time, he must foster the father’s expression of his fears over losing control, being unneeded, and suffering rejection, as well as the son’s concerns about being overcontrolled, infantilized, and exploited.
If meeting with the third party fails to help, the next step is consultation with a psychologist or psychiatrist. There are rare instances, usually when conflict becomes severe, in which father and son are willing to go to a professional together or separately. In such cases, it is often possible for the father to begin to make compromises, learn to understand his and his son’s motivations and work out with him newly defined more compatible roles. Usually, however, such an effort requires continued supportive work by the professional and a strong desire on the part of both men to resolve their differences.
If all these measures fail, those who work with patriarchs must learn to tolerate their situation until the opportunity arises for a change.
With respect to the brother-brother conflict, it is important for brothers to see that in their relationship they recapitulate ancient rivalries, and to perceive clearly the psychological posture each assumes toward the other. Once they understand these two issues, they must talk together about them. They should try to discuss freely the fears, worries, anger, and disappointments caused by each other. They should also be able to talk about their affection for each other.
Since there is love and hate in all relationships, theirs cannot, by definition, be pure. They should not feel guilty about their anger with each other, but they do need to talk it out. Having done that, they then must consider how they can divide the tasks in the organization so that each will have a chance to acquire and demonstrate competence and work in a complementary relationship with the other.
A brother cannot easily be subordinate at one level and equal at another. If a brother is an operating executive subordinate to the other, he gets into difficulty when he tries to be equal on the board of directors. If more than one brother is on the board, then only one, as a rule, should be an operating executive. Of course, such rules are unnecessary if the brothers work well together.
If the brothers still cannot resolve their conflicts, then it becomes necessary to seek professional aid. If that does not help, they should consider being in separate organizations. In such a case, the big problem is the guilt feelings that the departing brother is likely to have for deserting the other and the family business.
Toward Professional Management
Where there are multiple and complex family relationships and obligations in a company, and particularly problems about succession, the best solution is a transcendent one. The family members should form a trust, taking all the relatives out of business operations while enabling them to continue to act in concert as a family.
The trust could allot financial support to every member who desires to develop new business ventures on behalf of the family, thus providing a business interest that replaces the previous operating activity. This also helps maintain family cohesion and preserve the family’s leadership role in the community.
In general, the wisest course for any business, family or nonfamily, is to move to professional management as quickly as possible. Every business must define its overriding purpose for being, from which it derives its objectives. Within this planning framework, the business must have a system for appraising the degree to which it and its components are achieving the goals that have been set.
All organizations need to rear subordinates in a systematic manner, thus creating the basic condition for their own regeneration. I know of no family business capable of sustaining regeneration over the long term solely through the medium of its own family members.
Where there is a conflict or inadequately rationalized territories, members of the family should move up and out of operations as quickly as possible into policy positions. Such a movement recognizes the reality of ownership but does not confuse ownership with management.
It also opens the opportunity for professionally trained managers to succeed in major operating roles, instead of having to go to other organizations as soon as they are ready for major responsibility. The more competitive the business situation, the more imperative such a succession pattern is.
More than others, the family members need to have their own outside activities from which they can derive gratification equal to what they can obtain in the company. Otherwise, they will be unable to let go and will continue to be barriers to others. Moreover, they will make it difficult to recruit and develop young persons with leadership potential who, as they mature, will see the inevitable barriers.
A number of family businesses have handled these issues wisely and have become highly professional in their management. The Dayton-Hudson Corporation and E.I. du Pont de Nemours are examples. Family members in both organizations must compete for advancement on the same terms as nonfamily managers. This practice is reinforced, at least at Dayton-Hudson, by a thorough performance appraisal system which includes an appraisal of the chairman and president by a committee of the board.
It is very difficult to cope with the problems of the family business. That does not mean, however, that one should merely endure them. There is no point in stewing in anger and guilt since chronic irritation is only self-flagellation. It solves no problems; it only increases anger and hostility and paves the way for the explosion, recrimination, and impaired relations.
The family member can do something about such problems, as he can with any other. If reasonable steps to solve the problems do not work and he continues to feel bound to the organization, his problem is largely psychological. To free himself to make choices about what he wants to do, he must talk his feelings out with his rival in the organization, which is best done in the presence of a neutral third person. Sometimes professional help is necessary.
This will reduce sufficiently the intensity of the emotions generated by the problem so that he can see possible alternatives more clearly and make choices more freely. That is better than the years of agitation that usually accompany such problems unless, of course, the rival needs to expiate his guilt by continuing to punish himself. In that case, it is his problem and not necessarily that of the family business.
For two thoughtful views of the subject, see Robert G. Donnelley, “The Family Business,” HBR July–August 1964, p. 93; and Seymour Tilles, “Survival Strategies for Family Firms,” European Business, April 1970, p. 9.
See Orvis F. Collins, David G. Moore, and Darab B. Unwalla, The Enterprising Man (East Lansing, Michigan State University Bureau of Business Research, 1964).
Family Legacies www.family-legacies.com is a multidisciplinary family business consulting company. Our consultants are leaders in their respective fields including; Family Business Consulting, Strategic Planning, Financial Planning, Wealth & Risk Management, Corporate Finance, Business Transitions & Exit Planning - Buy, Improve, Grow & Sell Businesses, Commercial & Family Law, Executive Coaching, Leadership Development & Facilitation, providing our clients with a professional and integrated multi-disciplinary service.