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Articles - Family Life in Family -Business

Building balance in family business partnerships

Thursday, December 05, 1996




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


The Yin and the Yang; other than an interesting design for a T-shirt or jewelry, what do we really know about this symbol? Better yet, what is the relevance to our modern life? Simply, the Yin and Yang symbol represents those masculine and feminine aspects of ourselves as individuals, as couples, as neighborhoods, as corporations, as countries. Because the symbol is drawn to show the intertwining of these aspects, the meaning inferred is that we are dependent upon both to build a whole...a whole person, couple, neighborhood, corporation or country. Whatever your spiritual convictions, most people will agree that there are these feminine and masculine traits to be seen in many situations as well as within us. Psychologists have even developed tests to determine how strong certain masculine and feminine traits are within an individual. For example, some people score highly feminine, some highly masculine and some androgynous (or highly masculine and highly feminine). The masculine qualities are typically assumed to be aggressiveness, decisiveness, little show of emotion and so on. Feminine qualities are passiveness, supportiveness, emotionality and so. None of us have only feminine traits or only masculine traits. And some of us even have both masculine and feminine traits in abundance. The value of assessing your Yin/Yang quotient is to determine how much balance you have in your life and your relationships. It is not more desirable to be androgynous or masculine or feminine. The real question is whether you have struck a healthy balance within yourself and among your loved ones. In a family/business this balance is even more crucial. Not only is the health of your relationships affecting family functioning, but business functioning as well. Therefore, a healthy dose of masculine and feminine within a family/business should keep it humming successfully. "I couldn't be successful without her." "I wish more wives could learn the joys of working with their husbands." "

You don't really understand what it takes to run this business because you work in the office." "He doesn't really care about his family because he works all hours."These are examples of the Yin and Yang in operation among couples who work together. At times there is respect for the strength of the other person even though it is different than your strength. At other times, we get bogged down in our own reality and forget the valuable contributions of our partners. When the latter happens, the couple and the business are headed for trouble. Avoiding the pitfalls requires lots of love, open communication, and fearlessness in confronting problems. For example, I had a wife come to me in tears because her husband was dominating her in the family business. Apparently the wife had started the business at home in their garage. When the business took off and became too large to handle, the husband quit his job and came to work for his wife in the business. Unfortunately, his masculine qualities were pushing against his wife's feminine qualities. While she wanted to have his help, she still wanted to be the leader. And as his wife, she wanted to be loving and supportive, but not if it meant giving up her accomplishments. The husband, on the other hand was totally oblivious of the trouble he was stirring up. He was only trying to help. In a typical masculine way, he thought that if he had a good idea, and if his wife didn't say no, then it was OK to proceed. This type of complication between husbands and wives who work together is all too common. The research shows that husbands will dominate decision making and leadership in the business even if the wife founded the business...even if the business is a stereotypically female business, such as a nail salon!

To bring things back into balance, these copreneurs need to remember why they chose to work together in the first place. They need to assess whether the Yin/Yang balance is a good one in the work place and at home. The research shows that working people find great rewards at work, unlike what they get from family interactions. Yet these same working people report that their families are more important to them. In order to get the most from both worlds, especially when they overlap as in a copreneurial venture or family business, you need to really appreciate the Yin/Yang in your self and your spouse and other family/coworkers. For example, when you find yourself complaining that your wife/business partner doesn't really understand what it's like "out in the field," ask yourself if you could do her job in the office. Better yet, ask yourself who you would hire to replace this trusted employee and tireless worker. When you feel that your husband/coworker doesn't really love you anymore or that he treats his business clientele better than you or the children, ask yourself how the business would have grown without his determination and willingness to sacrifice his own personal time. With these new perceptions you are in a much better position to renegotiate the terms of the relationship. To be sure, if one spouse keeps putting in long hours at the expense of the family; and if spouses work side by side, doing their jobs, but never understanding each other, there is not much of a relationship, personal or business. Instead, with love and appreciation for past contributions, begin talking about change. Talk about striking a balance between love and work. Talk about the risk of losing a client or losing a spouse if priorities don't get straight. Talk about doing a little training with your spouse so that they do understand just what your job involves. Train the kids too; prepare them for the future when they too will seek to balance Yin and Yang.

How do you grow up if you don't leave home

Monday, August 05, 1996




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


Forty year old Cathy has worked in her family's restaurant business for 25 years. Her older brother Charles has done the same. Both have matured with the family business and seen it grow from one restaurant to five. Cathy's parents, the founders are nearing retirement and want the business to carry on under the care of their children. Cathy and Charles are ready and well trained (both on-the-job and college degrees) for succession. They work well as a team so there is no competition for leadership. Where's the problem? The problem is the youngest son, Brian. At 35, Brian has never worked in the family firm, preferring to try his hand in other ventures. Unfortunately everything Brian has tried has failed. Always there to help, Cathy's parents have "bailed" Brian out of one jam after another. Now as they face retirement, the parents want Cathy and Charles to hire Brian and to share ownership and management of the family business with him! Needless to say Cathy and Charles are beside themselves with frustration and fear. They don't want to offend their parents. After all, without their parents neither Cathy nor Charles would be in the fortunate position of owning a thriving business. However, Brian's inexperience, lack of maturity and questionable work ethic may cause considerable problems in the business. Neither Cathy nor Charles relish the idea of taking care of their brother indefinitely as their parents have done. This type of problem is all to common in family-owned firms. Being a parent is the single most important job in anyone's life. Most of us cherish this responsibility and we are very reluctant to give it up when the children leave home. In family firms where children may never leave home, the parenting role may continue indefinitely. In Brian's case, this appears to be true. A parent's job is to nurture and protect children so that they can grow up healthy and capable of independent adult life. But parent's don't teach independence directly. Independence is a state of mind that children must conquer for themselves. All cultures have growing-up rituals which affirm that the child has reached a stage of maturity wherein they must accept adult responsibility for their actions. The Bar Mitzvah is a religious ritual acknowledging that the young Jewish boy is now responsible for his own spiritual development.

Most American sixteen-year-olds get their driver's license, which is a type of ritual acknowledging that the teenager is fully responsible for their driving behavior. But just because a child has gone through the ritual doesn't mean they have made the cognitive leap to mature thinking. In a way, the Bar Mitzvah or the driver's license is really a license to begin learning to be an adult. To be responsible for all the mistakes one makes on the way to adulthood is the real test of maturity. Parents in family firms sometimes interfere with the growing-up process by being just a little to ready to rescue their progeny. Sometimes Mom and Dad fight over the child because one doesn't want the child hurt and the other wants the child to face their mistakes. Alternatively the child may be making a bid for independence but the parents thwart it. On the one hand parents complain that their grown child is not very strong or capable of leadership. Then on the other hand, they complain when the child speaks up for himself. One grown son complained that his father would "micro-manage me." The son carried the title of manager of one department in the family firm, but his father really never let him run the show. And to add insult to injury the father would stop by his son's house almost daily to advise him how to take care of the son's family and home. The father's complaint was that the son "never listens to me." In a fit of frustration the son quit the company, moved out of state and went to work for a competitor. But within a year he left the job and returned to his father's company. His bid for independence had been crushed by father's lack of support. Yet in other situations siblings give each other a hard time. If one child makes a bid for independence by leaving the family business, a sibling who is staying behind may become resentful if the parents are just as helpful to the departing child as to the one left behind. Also family members can feel as if the child who is leaving is breaking family ties and therefore not very loving. In order to acquire that state of mind that makes us an independent adult, a child has to prove him- or herself in the world.

This proof often comes by leaving the parental home and conquering one's fears about being self supporting. Many CEOs of family firms had no one helping them getting the business off of the ground, so they had ample opportunity to prove their adulthood. But what of their children, who have never had to look for a job? Some children can acquire maturity while working for their parents, perhaps by going off to college. But for most children they will have a very difficult time developing the strength of character required to run a business if they have not had preparation through the "School of Hard Knocks." If this sounds cruel, think for a moment about where your greatest lessons in life came from. Chances are you grew the most and gained the greatest confidence from conquering the impossible tasks that no one else could do for you. There are a variety of strategies for ensuring that the second and third generations in family firms really grow up. The strategy that fits for your business depends upon the business, the parent's skills and personality and the skills and personalities of the children. In any case the child needs an environment where they must prove themselves capable of leadership in the family business. For some this means leaving the business for awhile and working elsewhere. For others, it means getting a graduate education before returning to the family business. Another child may benefit by working their way up from the "mailroom" with no preferential treatment from the parents. Finally, some children will be better family members and more capable adults if they never return to the family business. There are two goals in family firms. One is to develop a thriving and competitive business. The second is to develop healthy independent mature adults who can contribute to society. It would be very efficient to accomplish both goals within the framework of a family business, but this isn't always possible. And these two goals are not mutually dependent. Keep in mind that the business can be successful without the child and the child can be successful without the business. That is, set your sights on accomplishing both goals independent of each other, and you may be surprised how they come together in the long run.

What's your family/business mission for 1996?

Thursday, January 04, 1996






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

As 1996 is upon us, I suppose everyone is at least giving some superficial thought to new year's resolutions. When you sing AuldLang Syne at the holiday parties, it's supposed to be a reminder to put the past behind you and move ahead to a brand new life. Easier said than done. It takes a lot of effort to change old habits, especially if you have the enormous task of running a family firm where the needs of family are tugging at you at the same time you are trying to expand the business.
Struggling as I do every year to come up with my new year's resolutions, my mind began to wander as I began this column and I thought about the days when I was a girl and my mother would take me shopping in the second hand and antique stores. One of those stores was Powell's Books.
Most everyone has had the chance to drop into Powell's bookstore in Portland. Dropping in isn't really that easy since the store covers several buildings over several blocks. It is truly amazing to think of a used bookstore the size of Powell's.
Having grown up in the Portland/Vancouver area I had the opportunity to see Powell's go from a small relatively unnoticed second-hand bookstore to the multimedia enterprise of today. One has to wonder why Powell's grew and other second-hand bookstores have not. Some of those other bookstores still exist today looking much the same as they did when my mother and I would browse for bargains. But Powell's is different. They have a Mission.
The fact is that most families in business do not have a mission, or at least have never thought consciously about one. The family business was started because of a need to support the family or to give a creative venue for the entrepreneur. But once this goal was accomplished no further thought has been given about how to grow the business.
The truth is that most family firm owners do not think of themselves as entrepreneurs. Recent studies have shown that family firms do not grow as fast as other enterprises. One reason seems to be that family business owners are in the business of family. They are satisfied with making a good income that can support the family and send the children to college. There is no desire to burn the midnight oil and to become a millionaire.
However, there is a small group of family business owners who really do think of themselves as entrepreneurs. They are interested in making money, lots of money.

Yet they too have a difficult time making the business grow. In other words, their businesses grow no faster, on average, than other family firms. Again we can look to research for the answer.
Family firms fail to grow because of the complexity of balancing personal life and business development. Executives report that the most meaningful aspect of their lives are their family relationships, yet they gain the most rewards from work. How then do you balance these competing demands to make the most of each?
Take a moment to conduct a short exercise with your spouse/business partner. Each of you take a sheet of paper (8.5 x 11 will do) and draw a line down the middle, vertically. On one side write the heading "Business Mission" and on the other side write the heading "Family Mission."
Now, without censoring your thoughts each of you write down your goals, values, dreams for the business and the family. Don't worry about what the other person is writing. Don't worry if business goals conflict with personal goals. Just write what you want and what you value.
Compare your lists and see where they are similar or different. Notice the contradictions and striking agreement. These lists are the beginning of an important development in your family enterprise. These lists represent the rudiments of your Family/Business Mission statement, a statement that will guide you to an integrated and balanced family and business life.
A second step to clarifying your Family/Business mission is to rank order your lists and/or perhaps to weight the items according to their importance to you. Again compare to your spouse's list. As you work and rework your list, you may notice that there are some basic truths emerging. These truths are the values that you live by and will be the guide for making all future decisions.
Whether you are the type of family/business owner who desires to grow the business to multi-million dollar proportions, or are satisfied with a smaller successful business that supports the family, your mission will help you stay on track. For years, executives and business managers have known the importance of having a mission for the business, but seldom did they include the personal side of a mission.

With a family enterprise there is no way a business can be successful without including the values, goals and dreams of the family (and each individual involved).
As your mission statement shapes up on paper, evaluate whether you are meeting it today. If not, change whatever you are doing now! Always stay true to your mission. This is a key ingredient to all successful enterprises.
If you want more time with your children, design the business to accommodate. If you desire more independence from your spouse, perhaps it is time to restructure the business so that each of you have more distinct and separate roles in the business.
If your goal is to have your son or daughter work for you or even take over the business someday, begin designing a succession plan (even if the child is 12). If you are getting flabby and your cholesterol is high because you never have time away from work to tend to your health, perhaps it's time to set up a health and fitness program at work.
Whatever direction your mission is taking you, take note and use January 1, 1996 as your start date for rejuvenating your personal life and your business life. Clean out old habits that keep the business from growing, if those habits do not serve the family or the business anymore.
Come to terms with the rate of growth that is comfortable for you; the rate of growth that keeps the family system healthy as well as the business. Not everyone is cut out for billion dollar international corporate life. Then again, if you are the type who wants to make a lot of money, clean up the sloppiness in your life and get clear about your direction. Afterall, how can a business grow if it has no direction?
There has been a lot of talk lately about "corporate culture," as professionals become aware that businesses have personalities that guide them as much as competition and the bottom line. A family business is no different and in fact is the epitome of the integration of personality and business.
If you want to make 1996 a banner year, think of your family enterprise as a cultural extension of your family. The values that you teach your children, that your parents taught you and that your grandparents founded the family on, are the same values that you surround yourself with at work. Make sure they are really your values and that you stick to your convictions. Happy New Year!

Management Style in the Family Firm

Friday, July 07, 1995




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


When she was about six, I overheard my eldest daughter describing my work to one of her school friends. She said, "A psychologist is a mommy who sees clients in the basement." At the time my office was located in the basement of my home, remodeled for just that purpose. And since I work often at home, my daughter has been able to see me in many of my roles, the most important to her of course is that of mommy.

Being the owner-manager of a family firm requires juggling many roles too, not just with family members but with your employees as well. How you handle your marital and family obligations affects your management style with employees and vice versa. For example, in family firms where you are working with your spouse, you must assess your style in three arenas, (1) marital, (2) parenting, and (3) business management. Furthermore, you must assess the integration of these three styles.

Let's take marital style first. Are you both leaders? Is one the leader and the other the support person? Does the style change depending upon the context? Are you a team? Or are you both separate and dedicated to your own spheres? Does your marital style differ greatly from your parenting style or your management style?

Marital partners find each other for myriad reasons. Sometimes we are attracted to opposites. Sometimes we want someone like Mom. Other times we seek a complementary relationship. Whatever your marital style, know it. Don't assume that it is irrelevant in your family firm. This style shows in the board room and on the production floor. If it is incompatible with the business, then you will have many problems. Employees sense the discrepancies. They know when there has been a marital fight.

If you have children whether they work in the business or not, you need to know your parenting style too. Your parenting style is affected by your business management style and vice versa. We learn a lot from our children about human behavior. Those lessons are translated to the work place.

Are you an authoritarian parent? One business owner orders his family around at home just as he does his employees at work. His wife and children don't like it and are in fact a bit intimidated by him, but he says he can't help himself. Are you permissive? Permissive parents often have children who are rebellious because they have always had to make their own decisions. Are you authoritative? This type of parent generally has a good balance in that they make decisions as the leader of the family, but include children when appropriate so that the children learn gradually the responsibilities of adulthood.

Parenting style is obviously related to marital style. If two marital partners do not think alike about parenting, there will be a disorganized and perhaps very depressed family. Discussing your differences about parenting and looking for a united plan is the best thing you can do for the family structure. Equally so, it is important that you determine if you are treating employees as you would your children.

Your management style at work is the third aspect of family\business style that needs to be evaluated. One way to categorize business leaders is as one of four styles: (1) telling, (2) selling, (3) participative, (4) delegating. Which are you? Are you apt to tell employees what to do? Or do you build a good case for what they should do? Or do you include employees or other managers in the process of developing new business? Finally, are you inclined to run the show yourself but delegate tasks to team members?

Americans have been successful in the world marketplace because of our emphasis on the "rugged individualist." We have been willing to fight to protect the rights of the individual. But as we move into the 21st century, Americans are beginning to realize that we are all part of one planet and one global economy. We cannot afford to be isolationists. We have influence and others influence us. As members of a family firm, you are in the position of understanding these influences better than most. A family/business is a delicate balance of interacting systems such as the marriage, the family, and the business. How you manage and respond to these systems will determine your success.

An authoritarian father with a "telling" business management style and a traditional marriage characterizes the entrepreneurs of the 1940s. But because that model is so dominant many family business members don't know what other styles exist. If following in Dad's footsteps works for you, then look no further. But if you desire alternative styles to keep up with the changes in your business and your personal life, then look for answers to the questions in this article.

First, accept who you are. Whatever your style it is probably the most comfortable way for you to be. This doesn't mean there is no room for improvement. But it's best to start with who you are and then to build marital, parental and management styles around your personality.

Second, accept your spouse's style too. She or he has developed a certain personality that is unlikely to change. Rather you two are looking for ways for both of you to realize your full potential. Don't compromise before you have explored all of the ways for both of you to be fully who you are in the marriage and as parents.

Third, when considering a parenting style, not only do you consider your partner's style, but you must also include the personalities and needs of your children. Most parents are astounded at how wildly different each one of their children are. While a permissive style may be appropriate for one child, another may require more authority.

Fourth, remember that your management style at work is more related to your marital and parenting styles than you realize. It is in the family that we first learn to relate to others. We learn about male/female relationships from our mothers and fathers. We learn about power and control and decision making too. We learn about love and friendship and sibling rivalry or competition. These early lessons shape us for the rest of our lives. How you treat employees and how you want them to treat you is dependent upon your understanding and utilization of these early lessons.

Virginia Satir, a noted family therapist once said that parents are in the business of "People Making." In a family/business I think this is true in more ways than one. As parents, certainly your children are shaped by the family firm, just as my daughter sees me as a mommy who works in the basement. And as family business owners and managers your employees are also shaped by your marital/parenting/management style. You can cultivate the best in your people or something much less desirable. Understanding your unique management style in the workplace and how you have integrated past and present family lessons into a Family/Business will help you to be flexible and to adapt to the requirements of the 21st century.

A beginning and an end: what comes after the prom

Friday, May 05, 1995




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


My husband and I were married in late April so each year when we take each other to dinner to celebrate our anniversary, the promise of Spring fills the air. It's a wonderful time to renew our commitment to each other. We usually like to go to dinner at a nice hotel, sometimes a resort. This year we drove the 40 minutes to Skamania Lodge in Stevenson and enjoyed one of those rare sunny afternoons in the usually rain-drenched Gorge.As we enjoyed the meal, the view and the company, we began noticing the young couples entering the restaurant. Each year at this time of celebrating our anniversary it's like going to the Prom. We invariably are one of the few older couples in the restaurant amid the young teen couples out for dinner before their senior prom. The young men are dressed in tuxedos; this year seems to favor the traditional starched white shirt, cummerbund and black jacket, some even with tails. The young women are lavishly dressed in evening gowns, shoulderless and backless. Their hair is styled with curls and glitter. They look nervous and laugh a great deal. They look so young, yet grown up too. And they always order dessert, usually chocolate. Like our anniversary, the Prom signals an important passage for these young people. They are no longer children. They must make their way in the world as adults. Some are off to college, others to travel, others the military, and many straight off to work. Whatever, their direction, they are no longer kids. We may think they still need guidance, but they will move into adulthood without looking back. If we haven't prepared them for this move by now, the parents in their lives have little to say anymore about the life paths they will choose. In a family-owned business preparing children for entering into adult life is different in some ways than for other families.

In addition to teaching life skills parents assist their children to integrate independence and confidence. They are preparing their children to fly freely and strongly when they leave the nest. But in a family business the assumption may be that the child will stay in the nest; that they are being groomed to take over the family business when the parents retire. There is an inherent conflict in grooming your child for independence and yet holding that independence in suspension until the parents retire.Family business owners who wish to groom their children to succeed them in managing the business, need to work with this inherent conflict. Too often the mistake is made that the child is never fully prepared for leadership and thus they remain a child indefinitely (much like Prince Charles). Or another mistake is to assume that the child will take over the business when they are not interested nor inclined to. Preparing children for taking over the family business requires that parents selflessly attend to preparing their children for healthy independent adulthood first. A child who has grown into a self-sufficient, wise and autonomous individual is in a much better position to assume the role of leader. A child who remains subordinate to the parent into his or her 40s can hardly be practiced at autonomy or leadership.Therefore, those family businesses who plan ahead for succession require a more thoughtful approach to emancipating their children. Having young children work in the family enterprise teaches them skills they could not learn otherwise. They not only become familiar with the product and style of the business, but they acquire confidence. They are participating in taking care of the family which is an important value to instill. As children get older they can be given more responsibility, even management duties. However, their progress up the ladder should not be based upon the fact that they are the son or daughter of the owner. They need to be evaluated as would any other employee.This teaches the child to do the hard work of improving themselves.There comes a point in adolescence when a decision needs to be made about whether a particular child is leadership material.

If so, a new path must be developed for this child. It is impossible for the child to become a leader and continue to work under their parents. They need a period of proving themselves in the world, apart from their parent's protection. If they have never worked for anyone other than their parents, how can they or you be sure that they really can handle decision-making alone?Parents are often very reluctant to let their children leave the nest. In a family-owned firm this reluctance is extremely strong. The business has evolved as a reflection of the family identity. It almost seems as if the family is breaking up or the business if a family member leaves. But for the health of the child, the family and the business, children must leave and discover their own talents.Firms who have handled this transition gracefully, have encouraged their children to leave home and work elsewhere for a period of years. If after this time the child is ready to return to the family enterprise, and there is a suitable position for the child, then the match can be made. The risk, of course, is that once out of the nest the child will never return, that they will find another life that suits them better than working in the family business. But then isn't that what parenting is about? The business will be much more successful being managed by strong capable leaders who want to be there and by a leader who has proven his or her talent in more than one arena.It is important for families in business to be open about their planning for business succession. Children should be advised early about who is being considered for leadership. But there should also be flexibility about this decision. Over time another child may prove to be the better successor. Or perhaps the chosen one chooses another direction. If parents keep in mind that their job is to raise healthy autonomous children, then they are a success no matter which direction their child chooses. Whether the child chooses to return to the family business or not, they can always be a contributing member of the family.

Daughters as heirs or caretakers of the king

Thursday, February 02, 1995




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


"A son is a son 'Till he takes him a wife; But a daughter's a daughter The rest of her life."

My mother was fond of telling me this little aphorism when I was a girl. Perhaps it was because she had two daughters and no sons. Or perhaps it is because she was the only daughter in a family of sons. Whether she was trying to teach me the lesson, or to merely advise me of a fact, I have noticed the truth in this saying more often than not. The value of relationships does seem to be more important for women than for men. Not that men do not enjoy loving relationships, but that women tend to define themselves more in terms of their relationships. Women and girls are more willing than men and boys to put their needs aside to maintain a relationship. Within a family firm for example, it is often the wife who does not take a formal salary. She is equally likely to forgo a formal title in the corporation, although she is just as hardworking an asset to the business as her husband. Likewise with daughters. Daughters in family firms often see their roles as supportive of the family. They are not as driven to be leaders as are their brothers. This does not mean they do not want recognition. Rather their first priority is to ensure the success of the loving relationships. After all, these relationships came before the business. They are the driving force behind the business; the reason it came into being. The research indicates that family owned firms were started by their founders primarily as a way to support the family. The women in family firms still recognize this intent long after the men have turned their attention to developing a thriving enterprise.But this concern for family first often gets in the way of founders considering their daughters as successors. Although their daughters may be hardworking, college educated, committed to the family enterprise and have many other talents, founders most often groom their sons to succeed them in the leadership of the business. The research shows that even founders who have no sons overlook the possibility of a daughter taking over the business. Considering the importance women place on nurturing the family, and considering that a successful family firm requires a cohesive and committed family, daughters may be the most likely choice to succeed the founder of a family firm. In her study of 18 family firms, Collette Dumas identified the roles that daughters typically play in family firms. Dumas chose only those family firms where the daughters held management positions.She also identified the qualities that make for a successful transition of leadership from fathers to daughters in family firms.

The majority of fathers and daughters that Dumas interviewed expressed great difficulty in managing the ambiguity in defining the daughter's roles in the family and in the family business.The roles assigned by both fathers and daughters ranged from "Daddy's little girl," which emphasizes a fragile, defenseless, dependent position, to that of a tough and independent manager in the business. While the daughters studied were capable and assumed several roles in the family business, their primary role with their fathers (and which was learned at an early age) was that of defenseless dependent. As one daughter put it, "Even though I've been working here a long time, I still have to kiss him every morning. Otherwise he'll be hurt. I don't think he's made the transition to seeing me as an adult. I'm still his little girl." While sons may also stay boys in their fathers eyes, at least sons come into the family business with the expectation that someday they will take over. Daughters rarely have this illusion. Therefore, they may remain Daddy's little girl indefinitely. This position leads many daughters in family firms to struggle with a sense of identity. Many daughters in family firms, as well as their mothers, work side by side with their brothers, yet their names are not on the organizational chart. All of the fathers Dumas interviewed reported that they had never considered their daughters as potential successors in the business before their daughters came to work for them. And all the fathers reported that long periods of time went by after their daughters came to work for them before they considered the idea. Dumas refers to this phenomenon as the "invisible successor." Only when a crisis emerged where the daughter was needed to help out Dad, did either party consider her potential as a successor. Unlike sons, who come to work for the family business to further their career and eventual ownership, daughters come into the family business out of dedication to Dad and the family. As a result of struggling with these issues (role ambiguity, invisibility and identity), daughters in family firms develop one of three styles according to Dumas: "Caring for the Father," "Taker of the Gold," or "Caretaker of the King's Gold."In the first style, "Caring for the Father," the daughter may feel a lack of purpose and direction. She has not developed a clear and strong identity. Such people often attach themselves to strong leaders or father figures and become dependent on them in an attempt to feel "alive." In the family firm these daughters are largely oriented toward pleasing the father and caring for his comfort and wishes. His needs come before the daughter's. While there is nothing unhealthy about caring for another person, to do so exclusively not only robs the daughter of her identity, but may harm the firm.

If the daughter's behaviors are oriented toward caring for her father to the exclusion of actions that would be beneficial to the organization's effectiveness and survival, she will not be prepared to take over the CEO's role when she succeeds him. In the second style, "Taker of the Gold," the daughter has taken the opposite extreme by developing a rigid identity or sense of self. She works hard to achieve and even overachieve, but she thinks only of herself. In the case of daughters trying to become independent of fathers, the takers-of-the-gold become more interested in taking charge of the business assets than in responding empathetically to the father or recognizing his accomplishments. While these daughters are strong and quite capable, they operate independently and thus do not take advantage of the resources available to them to make informed decisions. These daughters have behaviors that are rebellious and disrespectful of the business's norms. In the long run this style produces a great deal of conflict between father and daughter and potential distress for the business. The third style, "Caretaker of the King's Gold," represents a mid-point between the first two styles where the structure of the identity is harmonious and stable and at the same time less rigid and dramatic. This daughter suffers less from a sense of inner emptiness and is less inclined to continuously prove her existence to others. In other words, this healthy sense of identity allows the daughter in a family firm to simultaneously take charge and take care of the "king's gold" (the business), "the king" (the father), and herself. This style may seem to cast the daughter back into the dependent role of "Daddy's Little Girl." However, daughters who represent the style of "Caretaker of the King's Gold," have found their identity through interdependence with their fathers. While sons cannot feel like men until they break away from Dad, daughters mature through affiliation and interconnectedness. Fathers with this type of daughter find that they can gradually phase out of the business. Their daughter is capable of running the business with out them, but she also values working with her father for as long as he is capable. Murray Bowen, a family systems psychiatrist has suggested that interdependence is one sign of a healthy family. Certainly this is no less true for a family firm. Fathers and daughters who are able to be respectful of each other, nurture each other's developmental needs and both creatively pursue the business are in a better position to make a healthy transition from father to daughter when the time comes for the succession of leadership.

Family Business -- When is it time to let Jr. run the show

Thursday, January 05, 1995




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


"The acorn doesn't fall very far from the tree," as the old saying goes. Fathers have for centuries taken great pride in their sons' accomplishments as they groomed them for adult life. Likewise for centuries sons have worked hard to earn their fathers' respect and eventually earn the privilege of manhood. In the family-owned-firm this familial pattern has evolved into sons going to work for their fathers and eventually taking over responsibility, management and even ownership of the family business. In spite of the anthropological significance of this rite of passage, the transition from son to president of the company, or from child to man is not a simple one in our modern world. The fallout from a poorly planned transition can be financial loss and alienation of family members. The key to making the transition successful is recognizing the developmental needs of all parties concerned, the father, the son and the business. Two researchers, John Davis and Renato Taguiri in 1989 studied family-owned-firms to discover the influence of life stages on the work relationship of fathers and sons. Interestingly they found that age and stage of life of both father and son does have a powerful impact on the relationship and on this transition from child to man. For example, when a father is in his forties and his son is between 17 and 22, the relationship is relatively problematic. A man in his forties realizes that there is an end to life and begins to question his accomplishments. There is an urgency to make changes, to correct one's mistakes before time runs out, to prepare a legacy to leave behind (i.e., the family business). In other words men in their early forties are facing the mid-life crisis and generally pour themselves into their work. They are very controlling of their destinies at this stage and don't take kindly to suggestions from a youngster right out of college. The son, on the other hand is in the stage of life where he is still in the process of separating from the family. This separation is a necessary component of growing up. Without it, the child cannot learn who he is separate from his parents. Conflicts with father are common and emotionally charged at this time. And going to work for father at this stage of life is like extending childhood to a young man, which he can hardly tolerate. However, as the father moves into his fifties and the son is between age 23 and 33, the working relationship becomes harmonious. In fact fathers and sons both report that the best working relationship during the entire period of working together occurs when the father is between 51 and 60 and the son is between 23 and 33. This period of time for the fathers is a period of tranquility. They have weathered the mid-life crisis and their sons coming of age. Now their goal is to use reason instead of control to run the company and their lives. They still want to maintain the "old" ways but they are much more willing to negotiate. Men at this stage have proven themselves and are now less competitive, less condemning of others, have less need for possessions, and they are more attentive to relationships, including their sons' developmental needs. Sons between 23 and 33 are not particularly emotionally stable. However, this is a good time for fathers and sons because the son needs a mentor. The sons are experimenting with life, work and relationships in an effort to find their true calling. An older man who can guide them in the process is welcomed because the son feels extreme pressure to grow up, now! Since father is no longer so competitive and is even inclined to encourage his son's development, the son can feel free to nurture his dreams and develop mastery in an area. By the age of 30 to 33 the son has made a commitment to marriage and a career. It is during this stage of development that fathers are able to give their sons recognition for their accomplishments. Again the shift away from harmony and toward problems occurs as the father enters his sixties and the son is in his forties. Men in their sixties are facing retirement even if they own their own firm and expect to work until their death. At this age men are aware of their decline and the eventual loss of meaningful activity. Many fathers at this stage are unwilling to turn over the family business to their sons because of this fear of death. They have a strong need to still demonstrate their skills and authority during this period. At the same time that fathers are facing aging and decline, their sons are facing the mid-life crisis. The sons have a strong need to re-evaluate their relationships. They no longer want a mentor. Rather they want recognition, advancement and security. They resent reporting to father. They feel held back by father and annoyed by his "old fashioned" ideas. As the sons feel more confidence in their role as a competent man and authority figure, they may challenge their fathers more, causing considerable strife in the work place.

Quality relationships between fathers and sons don't just depend on life stage, however. They also depend on understanding, communication and planning. Davis and Taguiri for example, found that the sons they studied were more aware of the problematic relationships than were the fathers. There could be many explanations for this phenomenon, such as the possibility that the fathers discount tension in the relationship because they feel more responsibility for the way things are. Another explanation is that the person with the least power is often more aware of the tension in relationships. In any case, both parties need to be aware and communicate about their life stage and that of the other. Fathers who retire gracefully from their firms have developed a succession plan that takes into consideration the developmental needs of both parties. When the son is mature and competent to run the business he should be allowed to do so. However, the father does not have to give up his life. As the son assumes the presidency, the father can become chairman of the board. Some retiring CEOs turn their creativity to other projects such as a community endeavor or even another entrepreneurial venture. Also young men should be encouraged to "find themselves" outside of the family business. If they never separate from father, they will never really trust their competency as adults. Extending adolescence by working for Dad during the teen years and early twenties does not prepare a man to take over the presidency at age 42. Many successful family-owned-firms encourage their sons to work for competitors or in other industries before they are allowed to take a position in the family business. By the time the son returns to the family business, he knows that he can make it on his own. Then he puts that confidence to work for the family. The ability to work for one's father is one of the most rewarding experiences a child can have. In one study, researcher Ann Patrick-Lemay found that offspring of entrepreneurs report the number one benefit of working for their fathers is the chance to have a close and meaningful relationship. This was even more meaningful than salary or career advancement. If fathers and sons can keep these findings in mind as they negotiate through the years together in the family business, they will have much more success weathering their own and each others' developmental crises.

Copreneurs and the family business Christmas

Thursday, December 01, 1994




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


"SHOWER - COFFEE - GO!" That's how one young husband and owner of a successful family firm starts his day. His wife of five years, however, has a much more complex morning routine. After making her husband's coffee, she feeds the baby his bottle until he falls asleep again. Then she wakes the toddler, dresses him and gets his breakfast. After brushing the toddler's teeth, he goes off to play leaving Mom to shower and dress for work. Before the wife leaves the house she confers with the nanny about any last minute needs of the baby. Then she gathers up the toddler and leaves for work. After dropping the toddler off at day-care, she arrives at work by 9:00 am. Did she get breakfast? By this time the factory is humming. The husband is deep into his work behind closed doors. The young wife takes the next hour to "check in" with the supervisors and foremen. She chats with the employees as she walks through the hall to her office. Once behind her desk, she works non-stop, as does her husband for the remainder of the day, which often lasts well into the evening. They rarely see each other throughout the workday except for a cursory "check-in" regarding mutual decisions. Lunch is an apple or a cup of yoghurt at their desks. The daily routine of this couple is typical of entrepreneurial couples or copreneurs as they are popularly called. Not all copreneurs have young children, nor do they work in the same building. Some ride to work together. Some work out of their homes. But regardless of the physical differences the one thing copreneurs have in common is the hard work of balancing the two worlds of marital relationship and business partnership --- or LOVE AND WORK. This balancing act can take its toll on a couple, the family and the business, especially at the Christmas season, with the added stress of preparing for the holiday. There are vacations to plan for, employee bonuses and Christmas parties, out of town guests, last minute "rush" orders to fill, school and community functions to attend, and so on. The research shows that generally the stress is felt most strongly by the wife, who must manage the additional holiday responsibilities along with the routine family responsibilities and her work responsibilities.

While the husband feels the pressure too, he can compensate by working longer hours at the business. Herein, lies the problems for many copreneurs. Although it is tiring to work longer hours, it is actually more tiring to have to juggle two jobs (home and work), two schedules and two different kinds of responsibilities, as any copreneurial wife is aware. Anyone who has worked rotating shifts knows what a toll it takes on one's health and social life. The two worlds of Love and Work are very different really. Trying to bring them together in a family-owned business creates constant friction. Yet family firms are a natural form of human enterprise. This form of enterprise has been with us for centuries. And most copreneurs report intense satisfaction from working with their spouses. The reason for this constant friction is that the purpose or the drive behind the business is competition and growth. Whereas, the purpose or drive behind a family organization is nurturing and protection of family members. The interaction of these two systems (family and business) necessitates accommodations to each system. Research has shown that family firms grow at a much slower rate than non-family owned firms. Simply, the reason is that the family system will not allow competition and business growth at the expense of the family. For example, a child who works in the business, but who is not suited for the job, will be retained because of the need to "take care of" all family members. Or a husband and wife will continue a business that is failing because it is the one thing they do together. Add to this difficult balancing act the stresses of the holiday season and the likelihood of an "explosion" at Christmas is dramatically increased. Actually the explosion is just as likely to happen after Christmas with the post-holiday depression. Not only is business slower than before Christmas, but all of the illusions we harbor about warm family togetherness at the holidays may not have been fulfilled. There are several things you can do to prevent the worst possible case scenario and to have a much more meaningful Family/Business Christmas.

First, assess the division of responsibilities between copreneurial husband and wife. Is it really necessary that the majority of the burden be carried by the wife to maintain the family? Perhaps she is better suited to the task, especially when there are young children, but it certainly takes its toll on the marriage to have the worlds of love and work so rigidly defined. With baby changing tables now being installed in the Men's room, it's not so hard for dads to assume more of these responsibilities. Secondly, assess your expectations of the holiday season. Remember now that you both work. The typical copreneurial husband works 60 hours a week in the business. The typical copreneurial wife works 49 hours a week in the business; then she goes home and puts in another 49! Don't expect that you can attend every function or have a perfectly decorated home. Some people even eat Christmas dinner at a restaurant. In other words, look at your work and home responsibilities and decide what you can and can't reasonably be expected to accomplish. Thirdly, along the lines of expectations, dig down deep and look at your feelings about the holidays. Many people don't have extended kin to visit at Christmas. Many people even have unpleasant memories about previous holidays. Many people are experiencing current problems in their lives that won't go away with Christmas or New Years. Don't stick your head in the sand and pretend that wishing will make this holiday a warm, wonderful Norman Rockwell affair. Notice your feelings --- sadness, anger, grief --- and if they are intense talk to a psychologist. Dealing with your feelings now will enable you to ease through the season and prevent the explosions that come from built up stress due to unrealized expectations. Finally, use those entrepreneurial traits that set you apart from other people, such as individualism, creativity, determination, willingness to work hard. With your spouse negotiate the kind of unique relationship that works best for you. Don't rely on stereotypes to define your roles at work and home. You can set up anything you want; you're the boss. Also Normal Rockwell Christmases are not the only kind to have. Start some new traditions that fit your lifestyle. For example, spend a quiet Christmas eve at home. Or if you have no extended kin to visit, invite friends over. Instead of a garish display of presents under the tree for the children, take gifts to the local children's hospital. Cater dinner. Have pizza. Someday your grandchildren will think that Christmas has always been a pizza party followed by a trip to the children's hospital to sing carols.

Who's going to run the business after dad dies?

Thursday, November 03, 1994




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


"Carson Resort For Sale." I read with great interest the front-page article in "The Columbian a couple of months ago about the sale of the Carson Hot Springs resort. The old hotel is kind of a historic landmark to most residents, so no wonder it was front-page news. But what really caught my eye was the authors comment, "Rudy Hegewald died unexpectedly at the age of 88."

Twice the author made the comment as if the Hegewald family as well as the reading public would be surprised at the death of an elderly man. It seems to me that 88 is a ripe old age even if he did take mineral baths daily. Rudy actually lived well beyond the 70 or so years of normal life expectancy for a man of his generation. So why is anyone surprised at his death?

The irony of this is that this "surprise" is all too common among family business owners. A strong willed entrepreneur like Hegewald takes advantage of an opportunity, builds the business to success, then dies leaving the family totally unprepared to continue the business. The business gets sold and the family legacy dies with the founder.

Family owned businesses are as common as varieties of chocolate chip cookies. In fact, half of America's grow national product is produced by family firms. As well, 50 percent of the nation's workers are employed by family owned businesses. Yet family business owners are notoriously poor at planning for the future of their businesses. They literally act as if the founder will never dies. As a result, most family firms don't live beyond the first generation.

Death is not an easy subject to talk about; nor is retirement, especially for rugged individualist and entrepreneurs or their families. But it a subject that needs to be addressed by all members of a family firm. Is the business merely a reflection of the founder? Is it his personal property? What part do other family member play, shareholders and stakeholders alike? Who will run the business after the founder steps down? When will the founder step down?

Answering these questions and others leads to the development of what is known as a "succession plan." Even though it is tough to plan ahead to the day when you are no longer running the business you founded, it can be exciting and rewarding to know that your creation will live on and prosper under the guidance of a trusted family member. Equally rewarding is knowing that you have provided for your family.

While it is too late to work on a succession plan after the death of a founder, it is never too early to plan, even if you have no successor or just started your business or your kids are too young to even work yet. Succession plans can evolve over time to fit the changing needs of the family or the business or both.

At first, you plan may be nothing more that the understanding with your spouse that you both want the business continued after you retire. The initial plan my include provisions for how to groom the successor when one is chosen, for example. The key ingredient in all plans is that the stakeholders are communicating with each other about the need and that you are looking towards a healthy future.

When considering a succession plan it is best to enlist the aid of professionals who are knowledgeable about the unique needs of a family firm. Attorneys and CPAs can assist you in addressing the issues of estate planning. Management consultants can advise you about the most desirable business structure. Perhaps it is time to look at professional management, for example. Or perhaps your niece is better suited for he presidency than you son.

The toughest questions that need answering about succession, however, cannot be answered in an attorney's office. The founder and his or her family need to break down the old barriers to talking about death and retirement. All of the old "skeletons" in the family closet need to be cleaned out. Emotions, biases, age-old grudges need to be vented, explored and settled.

Until the family can talk openly and honestly about how they feel about each other, they cannot make a reasonable decision about how to run the company. Like it or not, the family system or style is what really dictates how things will go in business. So understanding your family system and improving it contributes to a healthier business.

Just as with legal and financial decisions, the emotional or psychological aspects of succession planning usually require the assistance of a professional. Psychologist trained in the dynamics of families as well as the workings of a family business are best suited to guide you through the emotional process of succession planning.

The psychologist's job is to meet with all stakeholders individually and in a group to discuss absolutely everything that can affect the succession plan. This is not a time to be secretive. The future of the business and you livelihood depends upon open and honest communication. Families who don't plan ahead not only lose control of the business, they often have a myriad of other problems associated with the loss of the business, such as infighting, divorce, alcoholism, depression, etc.

A psychologist understands these kinds of "people" problems that are intertwined with business decisions. Their goal therefore is to help you create a plan that suits two purposes, 1) To ensure the success of the business, 2) To ensure the health and happiness of the family.

In order to accomplish these important goals family members need to face the tough issues that most other people avoid.