The Growth Challenges of Family Businesses

By Nina Kaufman, Esq.

Family.  You can’t live with them; can’t live without them; most assuredly, want to pull your hair out working with them (sometimes).

Family businesses are delicate creatures, and as James Lea (via Marian Banker’s blog) points out, trying to effect positive change takes honesty, courage, and willingness–characteristics often in short supply.

I briefly worked with a brother-sister business which came to a disastrous end because of cultural differences. They came from a traditional Asian culture and set up a flower shop in the area. The brother (who knew less about the business and had fewer “people skills”) insisted on remaining the big shot, and felt threatened by his sister’s increasingly visible role in the business — a role which would seem normal from U.S. cultural standards, but not given their family background.

So it’s important to take a moment to see if there are any underlying social or societal mores that also may be at play, which could get in the way of making changes in and to the business. If Dad just can’t see his way clear to letting Daughter take the reins, succession to the next generation will be tough indeed.

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