Preventing Feuds in the Family Business

The ups and downs, as well as joys and sorrows, a business owner faces can be dramatically amplified and multiplied when he is running a family business. Several top family companies like Gucci are known to have a long history of internal fighting among family members dealing with problems ranging from who should take the lead to when the family head should retire. This is why family businesses are usually perceived as having a poor survival rate.

However, a successful family business doesn’t mean that all members have a common view about how things are done. Sometimes, there is a surprising amount of disagreement or lack of consensus when new ideas or issues are being debated and discussed. What makes these arguments work is that if it is aimed at creating "positive tension" rather than mere "tension" between family members.

One of the most common arguments in a family business is the change of status quo, and this tests the family members’ active listening skills as well as effective communication with those who disagree with their point of view.

Here are simple tips on preventing family feuds.

Understand the points of views of others – This is the first step in honing your active listening skills. Try not to box yourself in your own world where every you believe in is right. You need to understand that other people can be right, too.

Try not to shout at everyone else – Although arguments would often happen in family businesses, you need to bring out your point of view in a very civil, business-like and professional manner. Just like how you can’t get a business deal if your are disrespectful of your colleague, you can’t put your point across if you are overly aggressive towards other members of the family. Understand that we can make a difference one conversation at a time.

Seek for insight – Look for more information and insights from those with whom you disagree. Ask for amplification and examples that would enable you to understand better other points of view.

Remember that you belong in a family – While disagreements on issues may be strong, don’t forget the family’s values are a shared bond and represent a shared commitment to the common good.

Create rules and abide by them – List out some "rules of behavior" that all family members should follow during family meetings. Being part of the family does not excuse boorish behavior or a lack of business etiquette. You need to run your business just as professionally as any other corporation.

Do not ridicule other members – Do not act sarcastically to other family members especially those who do not agree with your views. Know and understand that being in a family business does not mean all members has a single opinion about things.

Establish time limits on discussions or debates – When that time limit is reached but closure is not attained, put it on agenda for discussion at a further meeting while doing more research in between.

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