Watch Professor John Davis of Harvard Business School talk about the importance of communication and the discipline of addressing conflict in family business. When dealing with issues in a family business, it is important to look beyond the symptoms, and understand what is causing a given problem. Consistent communication among family members is essential for the success of a business.
Most families in business are uncomfortable if you sit them down and say, “Let us talk about how you communicate.” Now helping them with good communication, with good problem solving process, with simple things like how to listen to one another. It is not simple but I mean they are simple concepts, that are not simple to do, are fundamental typically in helping them build a better system so that they can function better in business. Sometimes, CEOs are hesitant to talk about the family issues, or really talk about the family issues. The presenting issue that they give you are usually accurate but often not deep enough they are usually focused more on symptoms than causes and so you need to unwind the situation a bit to help them understand some of the more root causes that are really aggravating the situation. A lot of CEOs are very sensitive to the importance of having stable family relationships, constructive family relationships. Most of the problems that they really want to address are in their business, some however, come back to the family; could be a little ownership, or something else even outside. There have to be times where you agree as a family to come together and talk. And we are going to have an agenda and we are going to have somebody to facilitate because some of these conversations are easy and some are hard and we have to have them. So the discipline to come together and talk about the stuff that really matters I think it needs to be specified, you know if we are not getting along and we cannot resolve our differences between the two of us, we have a way of bringing in a mediator. If the mediator cannot help us, we have both agreed to mandatory arbitration. Because one of the things our agreement specifies is that we will not go to court. We will not use lawyers, you know I think it frees people up because they know, they know if you know if it doesn’t work out, if we cannot get along, if we change our mind, we are going to have a way of reaching an agreement.