(503) 222-6678 - Portland, Oregon
(360) 256-0448 Vancouver, Washington


ADD in Adults
Parenting a Child with ADD
Coping with Anxiety Disorders
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Overcoming Depression
Managing Stress
Conquering Fears & Phobias
Overcoming Social Phobia
Couples at Work & Home
Dual Career Couples
Families in Business
Recognizing High Conflict Divorce
Conflict & Communication
Couples at Work & Home
Love, Sex & Intimacy
Maintaining Strong Marriage
Dual Career Couples
Advice for Singles Only
Alcoholism Recovery
Stop Smoking
Weight Control
Headache Relief
Holistic Health
Managing Blood Pressure
Releasing Unresolved Stress
Am I a Good Parent
Blended Families
Gifted Child
Coping with ADD/ADHD
Adoptive Families
Gifted Adults
When to Seek Help
Psychotherapy Options
Laid-Off from Work
Calendar of Events
Media Coverage
Press Center
Related New Stories
Enriching Your Live Archive
Entrepreneurial Couples Archive

Enriching Your Life!

Sign up for my FREE newsletter! Get practical tips for you and your family.

Articles - Decision Making In Family - Business

Are You The Entrepreneur Or Supportive Spouse?

Friday, July 03, 1998

By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.

If you have read my columns in the past, you are aware that I frequently refer to couples in business as entrepreneurial couples. Now that I have bandied the term around for several years, it is probably time to formally define just what I mean. In fact there couldn’t be a better time to present my definition, since entrepreneurial couples are at the crest of the enormous wave of business startups in America right now. Some of you may not even recognize yourselves as entrepreneurial couples because you have always been entrepreneurial, or come from entrepreneurial families, or the style is so common (especially here in the Northwest) that you never considered a definition important. However, defining the type of entrepreneurship that you and your spouse share can be very enlightening. Knowing who you are and why you are that way will assist in problem solving and future planning, as the following case examples will show. Even though there are always exceptions to the rule and entrepreneurs being what they are (e.g., extreme individualists) there are three basic entrepreneurial couple styles to start with. You may be a blend of two or even three and you may have changed your style over time. However, I am sure you will find your bedrock image in one of these styles. They include the solo-entrepreneur with a supportive spouse, the dual-entrepreneurial couple, and the copreneurial couple.

Bob and Carol used to work together in their successful nursery and garden supply business, but Bob has since returned to his old employer leaving Carol to manage the business on her own, as a solo-entrepreneur. Bob has become the supportive spouse. He is employed elsewhere, providing emotional support to his wife’s business, but not really involved in the day-to-day management and headaches of running it. Carol, on the other hand, recognizes her talent as an entrepreneur and is much better suited to running the operation on her own as a sole proprietor. Larry and Dorothy, who for 15 years have worked side by side building their farming enterprises, are a copreneurial couple. Copreneurs share ownership, management and responsibility for their business as full-time partners. The term copreneur comes from the blending of the words couple and entrepreneur and was first coined by the husband -and-wife team of Barnett and Barnett in 1988. Copreneurs are different from dual-entrepreneurs in that they operate a joint venture. One partner may have more of the entrepreneurial spirit than the other partner, but they both are equally committed to the enterprise as owners and managers.

Still another style involves dual-entrepreneurs like Sharon and Dave, who each run separately their respective businesses. Sharon is a realtor and Dave runs several successful small businesses. Dual-entrepreneurs are like solo-entrepreneurs in that each spouse is an entrepreneurial spirit tending to their own sole-proprietorship (or even partnership with a non-family member).

They also may function as a support person to their entrepreneurial spouse. What distinguishes dual-entrepreneurial couples from the others is that they each have the entrepreneurial spirit yet they are not in business partnership with their spouses. There are few couples who fit neatly into one category or another. Jonathan, for example, owned a multi-million dollar national advertising company 10 years ago when he met Brooke, whom he later married. Now Brooke heads up a major division of Jonathan’s company. Jonathan and Brooke are copreneurs but often operate as dual-entrepreneurs because of the size of their international business. Anton and Carrie were each solo-entrepreneurs before they married and merged their respective businesses to become copreneurs. Ross and Nalani over the years have experimented with all types of entrepreneurship. In some ventures they are copreneurs. Still in others, each operates as an independent dual-entrepreneur. All the while they consider themselves supportive spouses.

So what is the real value of knowing your style and that of your partner? Stan and Rhonda didn’t evaluate their entrepreneurial style before they launched their successful retail chain, but they could have avoided many painful bumps in the road if they had taken the time to really talk and learn about each other. For years Stan had worked as a controller, transferring to a new company when he needed another challenge. He was good at his chosen career so his moves always bettered his situation. Still he was restless and at mid-life, tired of helping others make their businesses more successful. He wanted to try his hand at running his own successful business.

Rhonda had married Stan after his divorce from Pat, with whom he had three children. She had no children of her own, nor had she been married before. However, Rhonda was well established in her career when she met Stan at work. As an accountant, Rhonda had always found excellent jobs and was quickly promoted. When Stan began talking about starting his own business, Rhonda agreed that they made an excellent team not only because of their love for each other, but because of their combination of professional skills. She was excited to get started on the venture.

Clearly though, this was Stan’s adventure. True to his organizer style, he researched the marketplace to discover the most advantageous industry and location for his new business. He was not so concerned with the type of business, but whether it would be profitable. He was willing to move to a new town where there was a need for his business. Unlike the entrepreneur who pursues a business because they have a passion for a particular industry or product, Stan is the type of entrepreneur who can take any good idea and make it into a profitable venture.

When Stan discovered the right business for him, a store that specializes in a variety of environmentally friendly products for the home remodeler, the couple began the second phase of development. The plan was for Rhonda to keep her job for the steady income and benefits. Stan quit his job and threw himself into the work of getting the business funded and off the ground. Rhonda helped in the evenings and on weekends with whatever odd jobs Stan could not get to.

In this manner the business grew from one retail outlet to two within three years. At this stage the couple needed to reassess Rhonda’s role. Stan could no longer manage alone and still achieve his dream of building a franchise business. Although Rhonda was ready to quit her job and come to work full time with her husband, Stan had other ideas. He was not emotionally ready to share entrepreneurship with Rhonda. Their relationship worked fine when Rhonda was a supportive spouse, but when she left her job, Stan felt that she was usurping his territory. After a tumultuous year of trying to work together as copreneurs, Stan and Rhonda realized that Stan needed to hire professional management and that Rhonda would continue working in corporate America. They just were not cut out for the challenges of running a family business. What best suited this couple is the model of solo-entrepreneur with a supportive spouse.

Speaking of supportive spouses, he or she is often the "unsung hero." As one wife put it, "My mission is to showcase my husband’s talents." This wife works side-side-side with her husband in their chain of hardware stores. Her daughter and two sons-in-law are also in the business. While she is vital to the welfare of the business in many ways, her husband operates as the solitary leader of the business. He consults her and the children, but as the founder he has the veto power in all decisions.

Not everyone is cut out to be a supportive least not all of the time. Most of us think of marriage as a partnership with give and take, where sometimes we are the leader and sometimes our spouse is the leader. In an entrepreneurial venture, however, this may not always be the case. Entrepreneurs are driven people who can become so consumed with their businesses that they ignore their families. A supportive spouse must do more than stand by and watch. They are often the one holding the entire marriage and family together, so the entrepreneurial spouse can devote his or her undivided attention to the business venture’s success.

Regardless of your style of couple entrepreneurship, all partners eventually must play the part of the supportive spouse. After all, that’s what marriage is about. And the role of supportive spouse is much less complicated if you, as a couple, clearly define the type of entrepreneurship that suits your personalities best. If you are a hard driven, competitive type, probably you will do best as a solo-entrepreneur. If both of you are this type, try dual-entrepreneurship. If you are team players and enjoy sharing the spotlight with the one you love, copreneuring is for you. And if you are the quintessential woman/man-behind-the-scenes, and you don’t really want to be too involved in the daily managing of your partner’s venture, you are well suited to be the supportive spouse.

Can Husbands and Wives be Business Partners

Friday, June 05, 1998

By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.


Successful business man seeks life partner to share my entrepreneurial dream. Must believe in me and be supportive of the long hours required of a start-up venture. Nothing is too much for you in that you are comfortable juggling the many demands of the wife of an entrepreneur...household, childcare, social obligations and working late hours at the office to meet deadlines. Opportunity to develop your own very satisfying career as you help me build my business. Your rewards are financial security, the opportunity to be part of something big, and the chance to work side-by-side with your husband. At work you are my hard-working right hand person. At home you are the loving support that makes the long hours worthwhile.


Career-minded, college educated woman with entrepreneurial spirit, tired of facing the "glass ceiling" of corporate life seeks like-minded college educated male to share love and business partnership in a start-up venture. Must believe in egalitarian relationships, sharing fully in the household maintenance as well as sharing equally in the ownership, management and responsibility of our joint business venture. Even though you possess creativity and leadership skills which you use to help me create the "American Dream", you’re ego is not bruised by my ability to make decisions and take charge. At work, you are dedicated, aggressive and single minded in your pursuit of success for our business. At home you relax and become playful because you are a loving, sensitive, communicative male, who adores me and takes the time to get to know our children.

The "personal ads" I have written above are of course, tongue in cheek. Yet they represent a classic problem that entrepreneurial husbands and wives bring to their partnership. Each spouse has a very different concept of what they would like in a business/marital partner. Because their expectations are so radically different, husbands and wives become confused and frustrated with a partner that they love. They wonder why they ever asked the other to work with them. Sometimes they wonder even if they should remain married.

As more and more couples consider entrepreneurship, it becomes painfully apparent that they are unprepared for the stress business collaboration will cause their personal relationship. Many career-minded husbands and wives have already achieved some success in the work world before embarking on their own venture. Likewise they may feel that their personal relationship is solid and healthy and capable of taking on the added strain of working together. Yet few of these couples discuss the ramifications of working together. They are totally unprepared for the blurring of boundaries and turf when a spouse becomes one’s business partner. However, clarifying the work/home expectations of each spouse/business partner should be the first thing that any entrepreneurial couple does, even before spending a cent on letterhead, or signing the bank loan.

For example, even though Charlene started the real estate company five years before Ted joined her in the business, she found herself deferring to Ted more and more as the two of them worked together. As a traditional couple, who had two grown children, they were used to Ted being the "head of the household." When they started to work together, they assumed the same roles at the workplace. The problem was that Charlene had nowhere to go with her entrepreneurial spirit and leadership skills. The solution was to redesign the business so that each had their own division to lead and operate.

Frank and Louise had a difficult transition. Although they had a traditional marriage, they operated as equals in the career world, as long as they worked for different companies. When they started their entrepreneurial venture, conflicts arose because they had not discussed expectations at work.

Frank continued to operate as the "head of the house" at work, while Louise designed her work schedule according to the former egalitarian arrangement. Frank started to complain that Louise did not work as hard as he did and that she didn’t care about the success of the business. Louise felt unappreciated because she was working very hard on projects that she felt were important. The problems were (1) that the couple was not talking about work priorities, nor coordinating those priorities and (2) they were using two conflicting models to operate as partners at work. Eventually, the couple decided to maintain the separation of work lives that had worked so well for them in the past. Louise left the business and pursued other interests.

Elise and Aaron were extremely puzzled by the marital conflicts that arose when they decided to move their respective businesses into the same building. They had had a warm and respectful marriage for ten years. Each had built their individual professional practices in that same time and they were thriving. However, when they moved into the same office suite, now seeing each other everyday at work as well as at home, conflicts were happening more often. The tools that the couple had used in the past to resolve problems weren’t working anymore. What was needed was a new set of tools for the changes in the marital/business partnership.

Entrepreneurial couples have a lot of work today to balance the competing demands of home and work. Whatever your style of couple entrepreneurship (a solo proprietorship, co-entrepreneurial couple or dual-entrepreneurs) there are few models to guide you in maintaining a loving marriage and a thriving business simultaneously. There are a myriad of variables to consider. So my advice is to design a model unique to the two of you. Begin by talking with your spouse/partner about the goals each of you has for yourselves individually in life. Then go on to discuss marital goals, family goals and finally business goals. (I have a more comprehensive outline of how to do this in my book ENTREPRENEURIAL COUPLES: Making it Work at Work and at Home.)Ultimately you are searching for a flexible system of relating that can change with the circumstances of your life, your lives together, and the changing marketplace of your business.

How to listen and win in family business communication

Friday, June 07, 1996

By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.

Years ago, when my husband and I were just getting started, we lived in a small one bedroom house. He was finishing law school that Summer and we were planning a big celebration. Since graduation and our party were slated for August; and since family and friends would be flying in from out of town, I wanted our little home to be as pleasant as possible for this important occasion. Over the next few months, while we planned, I would suggest that I wanted a window air conditioner so that our stuffy little house would be more comfortable for the party. My husband always said he thought that was a waste of money, especially in the Northwest, where we see the sun so seldom. Nevertheless, I persisted, until one day he was particularly annoyed with me. I told him I had spotted a sale on air conditioners at a local appliance store and wanted to check them out. In frustration, he placed his hands on the table in front of him, pushed himself up from the chair, looked me squarely in the eye and announced, "We aren't getting an air conditioner and I don't want to hear any more about it!" I was speechless for a moment, not fully comprehending that I had been dismissed. Then I caught my breath. Would I back down? Would I fight? Or, would I negotiate? Giving the tension a moment to settle, I proceeded to explain to my husband that while he had every right to not want an air conditioner, he did not have the right to make a unilateral decision that affected us both equally. At the same time just because I had the right to want an air conditioner, did not mean I could override my husband's wishes. In other words we were at a standoff. The only solution was to keep talking until we could come to a mutually agreeable solution. I am sure that you would like to know whether or not we got the air conditioner and who really won. But the real issue is not who wins but that relationships require no compromises, no giving in, no resentments in order to work.As much as is humanly possible, participants in relationships should work toward win-win solutions. Just as listening is a difficult skill to master, especially when you have so much to say, learning the art of negotiating a win-win or no-compromise solution with another person requires a lot of effort. But the pay off is a relationship filled with respect and cooperation. Reviewing last month's column for a moment, we learned that if you really want someone to talk so that others will listen, you need to learn the art of listening first.

By listening you can begin to understand the other person's world or "map of reality." Comprehending another's map is vital to developing your communication strategy. The basics of good listening are to get your own ego out of the way so that you don't require the other person to think and talk as you do. Next, listen to what the other individual is trying to tell you instead of their words. Remember that all human behavior is meaningful, but the meaning may be disguised. For example, when I found my two year old carrying a loaf of bread around the house, I inferred that she was hungry. Further I inferred that my babysitter had neglected to feed her (which to my horror proved to be true). Another part of listening is to be truly interested in the other person. If you are genuine, the other individual feels appreciated and tries that much harder to send you clear signals that require less translating. Even if you don't agree on something, the fact that you are making an extra effort to understand the other's reality, will move you both toward a win-win solution. Letting go of the notion that good relationships are based on compromise is tough. Most of us have been taught that compromise is essential because both people can't be right. But try to look at this another way. There really are many right solutions to a problem. We tend to think our solution is the only right one because it fits our reality best. But often in the listening process, we discover other solutions that work as well or better than our original one.When you are "bent" on having your way, you may get it, but at the expense of a healthy relationship with your wife, or coworker, or child or employee. Just because someone gives in doesn't mean they agree with you. Acquiescence often leads the person to become sneaky to get their way, or to be passive aggressive and dig in their heels on other issues. Another important benefit of taking the extra time to go for a win-win solution is that you encourage free thinking in those around you. If you are a powerful person or extremely charismatic, you may be able to garner obedience from others. However, you will then deny yourself the opportunity to benefit from the creativity of other free thinking individuals. Even if you believe this philosophy of relationships, it is an extremely difficult process to accomplish. It does require that you are willing to devote time.You can't give up in a huff or sacrifice your position because you are beaten down. You may be tempted to resort to intimidation for the sake of expediency, but you will risk rapport.

Therefore, my suggestion is to enter the negotiation with the goal of a win-win solution. If at the end of the time you have there is no solution on the horizon, table the discussion until you sleep on it. Often given enough time, and perhaps the advice of others, a new heretofore unthought of option will appear. Members of family firms often fall victim to the compromise trap. Because we want to keep relations on a positive note with our family members/coworkers, we acquiesce or intimidate our way to expedient solutions. Unfortunately, creativity, independence and loyalty are sacrificed. The willingness to risk a little annoyance or confusion by resisting settling for a compromise may mean a much more creative solution in the long run. In one family firm a daughter was the catalyst for the win-win solution. Her husband had worked with her father in the father's business for about 15 years. The father's son was being groomed to take over the business even though the son-in-law was far more capable. The son-in-law became disgruntled by the plan but was afraid to disrupt family equilibrium. Naturally the daughter felt caught in the middle. Eventually the son-in-law decided to move out of the business into another job in a related industry. This allowed him to grow professionally and yet not offend his father-in-law. But the problem remained that the son was not really capable of stepping into his father's shoes. After the family wrestled with the problem for awhile, the daughter stepped in and offered to run the business for her father. The son was actually relieved by his sister's offer because he felt an obligation to take over Dad's business when he really had other interests. The daughter had not even been considered as a successor before, but she proved to be quite capable. With a little getting used to the family expanded their consciousness to include a new possibility which allowed the family business to grow and the family to carry on. Getting back to that air conditioner, my husband and I struggled with the problem for an hour or so. He had to admit that I was right about the decision requiring consensus. Keeping his mind open to the possibility of an air conditioner he could live with and keeping my mind open to the possibility that I could live without one, we arrived at a win-win solution. Since the air conditioners were on sale they cost about half what he had imagined. I agreed, in order to keep the costs down, that we needn't run the appliance anymore than was necessary. So we did buy an air conditioner afterall, with no resentments on either side.

Communicating so others will listen to you

Friday, May 03, 1996

By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.

The most common problem brought into my office is that of communicating with others, a spouse, a boss or coworker, a child. No matter what level of society or what kind of job the person comes from the art of communicating so that others will listen is an art that is difficult to cultivate. There are many reasons for this and they are amply exemplified in family firms. First, a family is a group of members from two genders and two, three or four generations. Spicing the soup further, is added the interaction of the family system with the work environment and non-family coworkers and employees. Third, family members are often baffled by communicating with the ones they love. Isn't love all that is necessary to form a strong relationship? As a result I am frequently asked to help members of family firms to iron out their communication difficulties, especially the ones that have lead to an impasse at work, or to the brink of divorce, or to a feud between parent and child. Until the misunderstandings are ferreted out, and new communication skills learned, members of a family firm may stay in a quagmire of distrust for years. The first place to start if you want to be heard, is to listen yourself. But this is easier said than done. Listening is a very creative component of communicating. However, once you become good at listening, half the current misunderstandings will disappear. One simple way to begin your education at becoming a better listener is to ask yourself "Why is he or she telling me this?" In other words, you are looking for the meaning behind the words. People have good intentions. They are trying to communicate with you. But often their words don't reflect the inner meaning. To be able to respond to this inner meaning, you must put yourself in his or her shoes and ask yourself what is the meaning behind these words or behavior? Another step in becoming a good listener is to realize that people cannot not communicate with you. That is, they are always sending you meaningful (meaningful to them) messages if you can only learn to interpret them.

So even if you think you are getting resistance from someone, realize that this individual is telling you something that is important to them. Perhaps your grown son is not attending to his responsibilities at work, despite repeated conferences with you, because he feels that he is constantly in "the old man's shadow." Or perhaps your husband works 60-70 hours a week at the family business because he believes that by being a good provider he is demonstrating his love and loyalty to you. After practicing nothing but listening for a few weeks, you should be getting pretty good at figuring out the other person's reality. Remember, we all live in our "maps" of reality. Your interpretation of reality is not necessarily superior to any other person's. Maps are just a convenient way to structure our lives. In figuring out another person's map of reality and responding to it, you begin to let the other person feel respected, appreciated, even loved. In order to respond to another person, it is necessary to put your own ego aside. Listen, observe and learn the "language" of the other person. Once you begin to speak their language, you will be surprised how much they want to learn yours. In other words, the real key to learning to talk so that others will listen is to learn the art of drawing people to you. By developing your creative listening skills, others will want to talk with and listen to you too. Perhaps you remember the short story "The Gift." The story tells of a young couple who were so poor at Christmas that they had no money to buy each other a gift. So the young man, sold his pocket watch to buy his sweetheart a comb for her long beautiful hair. And the young women, cut and sold her hair to purchase her husband a watch fob for his pocket watch. The willingness to sacrifice your own needs temporarily and step into the other's world, brings rewards that are deeper than a comb and a watch. Dan and Jane had a similar problem when they came for consultation.

Their communicating skills were so bad that they were on the brink of divorce even though they still loved each other. Dan complained that his wife was not supportive. Because he worked long hours seven days a week, he wanted her to be more supportive when he came home. She on the other hand, resented these long hours and the fact that she was left to manage the household and three young children by herself. By the time Dan finally got home in the evening, Jane wanted to turn the children over to Dan so that she could rest. Dan wanted the house clean and the children fed when he got home. This couple worked valiantly at trying to break through the communication barriers, but their maps of reality were radically different. Instead of being more supportive at the end of the day, Jane planned extra social activities for she and her husband, hoping that luring him away from work, would help him relax. This only made Dan mad and unappreciative. And in order to coerce her "support" Dan would give Jane "assignments" to accomplish before the day's end, so that he wouldn't have any work to do when he arrived home. Needless to say, she got even less accomplished than before. The solution for this couple lies in learning to understand the other's map of reality and responding to it, rather than imposing one's will onto the other person. Dan needs appreciation for the sacrifices he makes to support his family. Jane needs appreciation for the sacrifices she makes to support her family. Then they both need to stop sacrificing! A reevaluation of just what each needs and wants and is capable of creating is in order. By listening and responding to the maps of family members, coworkers, friends and others, one improves his or her capacity to be listened to. Next comes the tough part of negotiating an ongoing workable relationship. Just how to navigate those waters will be the subject of next month's column. In the meantime practice listening and determine how many different realities there are out there!

How to fight fair in a family firm

Thursday, February 29, 1996

By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.

Ask yourself who you would rather work with, a family member or a trusted friend or colleague. List five family members whom you trust and five friends or colleagues whom you trust. Of these ten people, with whom would you choose to start a brand new business? When I asked this question recently of attendees at a trade show, the majority said they would work with a friend before they would a family member. Their reasoning is that they wouldn't want to risk alienating a family member and upsetting the entire family if the business partnership should not work out. What is most interesting about their responses is that a good 90% of the attendees were already working in a family firm! While the rewards of working with the ones you love are many, such as the benefit of working with someone whom you trust and who will work as hard as you do, there are significant liabilities. The major one that plagues most family firms is the inability to resolve conflict constructively. This inability leads to resentment, hostility, alienation and family feuds. Family firms have the unique distinction of blending both the needs of a family and the needs of a thriving business. While the goal of the business is growth through competition, the goal of the family is to nurture and protect all family members. As a result, family firms grow more slowly than non-family owned firms because the business growth is compromised by the need to protect family members, even those who do not really belong in the business. Conflict in any family is disagreeable, but it is even more so in a family that also works together. Ordinary conflicts that other business owners have to deal with are submerged in a family business for fear of "hurting" a family member's feelings, or offending one's parent or spouse.The need to protect the family system, to keep this system in tact, is quite strong. All of us grew up with the knowledge that to betray a family rule was to risk the safety of the family. Anthropologists suggest that this protection of the family system is a part of our survival as a species.

We seem to have a genetic need to belong to a family where we can share food, shelter and emotional comfort with our kinfolk. Political experiments that disrupt the standard family unit usually do not last. Research is even showing that children learn better in school if educators structure assignments to better represent individual student's family values. Given that belonging to a family is a stronger need than striking out on one's own, families tend to discourage conflict and confrontation. This keeps family members home. However, in a business, avoiding conflict can lead to serious problems. Sometimes out of conflicts arise tremendous ideas for the growth and success of the business. Wrestling with ideas brings out resolutions never before thought of and it often clears the path for junior members of an organization to show what they are made of. But in family firms, all too often conflicts get submerged rather than aired in a healthy context. Those of you who currently work with your spouse or other family members may be thinking that conflict is rampant in your family. The problem is that the frequent fighting may not be solving anything. When ordinary conflicts get submerged as they too often do in family firms, things fester. Family members may brood or bicker but never really confront the issue head on. Sometimes there is a major blow up at the office, but this is not healthy confrontation. This is merely "letting off steam," only to have it build up again until the next fight. Some of the signs of submerged conflict in family firms are (1) the increase in alcoholism and drug dependence among family firm members; (2) infidelity and multiple marriages or liaisons; (3) child abuse; (4) acting-out children (i.e., poor grades, suicide threats, drug abuse, numerous traffic violations, disregard for the rights of others); (5) chronic depression; (6) frequent fighting to no end.

In order to get to the bottom of conflicts, family firm members need to be brave. You need to trust that you are doing what's best for the family as well as the business by confronting family problems. Even if you have the minority view, it may be an important view. In your family and family firm there may be room for more than one view. Confrontation need not be nasty and abusive. Confrontation is just "taking the bull by the horns." Be respectful but firm. Acknowledge that you may not be right, but that the family needs to talk. Keep talking until the family has come to a mutually agreeable solution. Most people report that they feel closer to those with whom they have resolved conflicts. The misunderstandings that lead to the conflicts are often just that, misunderstandings, not a major difference in values. And if you discover that there is a major difference in values and these differences are not good for the business, it's best to discover these differences so that sound business decisions can be made. If a father and son really want to take the business in different directions, perhaps they should part the business, not maintain a cool emotional distance from each other in the office. But rest assured whether a member leaves the business or not, the family goes on forever. Conflict and confrontation strengthen a family, despite the unpleasantness in the moment of unresolved dissension. While it's true that families take on different shapes and sizes over the years as children marry, grandchildren are born, founders die, even an occasional divorce, the family as an entity survives. The same cannot be said for a business. It can be sold or dissolved permanently. One of my daughters brought home this poem by an unknown author and I think it sums up the values that any family business should be proud to live by.

Our family's like a patchwork quilt With kindness gently sewn. Each piece is an original With a beauty of its own. With threads of warmth and happiness It's tightly stitched together To last in love throughout the years --- Our family is forever.