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Articles - The Entrepreneurial Personality

Keeping personal values challenges heart, soul of wealthy families

Friday, April 06, 2001




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


It was starting to dawn on Dyan that a divorce from Cooper was not enough to protect her children and to teach them the important values of life. Six months earlier she had come into therapy to help her make a decision about her marriage. Her feelings for Cooper had died a long time ago, but she felt guilty breaking up her family, especially because she worried about the grief it would cause her two children, Mara, age thirteen, and Philip, age five. Cooper was not a bad person really, but he and Dyan did not share the same values about life, parenting and money.

Cooper's entire focus was the thrill of making money, something that he had a knack for. Before age thirty, Cooper had amassed several million. When he and Dyan married, he was already wealthy enough to ask her for a prenuptial agreement. Both had come from humble beginnings, growing up together in a small town. While Dyan focused on getting an education and developing a professional career, Cooper dropped out of college and sought his fortune in the high tech industry. When Cooper asked for the prenuptial agreement, Dyan didn't mind. She was in love and believed that money would not make or break the relationship. Later her naiveté came back to haunt her, not because she stood to lose a lot of money with a divorce, but because she underestimated the power of money to affect the well being of herself and her children. Though the couple was wise about investments, as their wealth grew, their relationship deteriorated and family life suffered.

There are dozens of resources for wealthy people to guide them in managing their investments. There are conferences and seminars offered by banks and investment firms. There are books and journals full of advice on how best to preserve your wealth. There are lobbyists for interest groups working to change tax laws and create tax shelters. But very little attention is paid to educating the wealthy on how to integrate health and wealth. Ignored are those soft issues, such as keeping an open heart, connecting with a higher spiritual purpose, maintaining loving friendships, and guiding impressionable children in the development of strong self esteem. It's not that people think these things are unimportant. In fact, most of us believe that God, loving relationships and healthy children are our primary work. However, because these are soft issues, hard to pin down and work on, they are often set aside for later . . . after the phone calls, after the business meeting, after an Internet search, after we pick up the dry-cleaning. However, the meaning of life needs to be attended to first, not later. Money cannot replace the success of having lived a meaningful life.

The challenges that face wealthy families are many. Planning for succession of the business is one. There is much being discussed these days on how to prepare a junior member of the family for succession to leadership. However, it seems to me that this is putting the cart before the horse. To prepare children for leadership in the family business or in the community requires quality parenting from the start. Your child is not a miniature adult. He or she does not have the cognitive development, or the life experiences yet to handle the complexities that comprise the world of most wealthy adults. If you want your child to grow up to be successful in life, whether it be as your successor in the business or in his or her own venture, then your focus from day one should be on building his or her self-esteem.

In order to build self esteem in your children, you must consider parenting a full time job for both parents. This is true with all children, not just the wealthy, but wealthy children require even more attention. Wealth makes your children different and more vulnerable than the average child. You have all of the normal responsibilities of parenthood; that is to instill your most cherished beliefs and values in your children. You must teach them the skills of independence, right from wrong, how to be a good person, how to choose friends wisely, how to dream, develop their talents and work to accomplish those dreams. But in addition to all of this, wealthy children must be taught how to handle the considerable responsibilities that wealth brings into their lives. These children will have fewer peers than the average child. They have more resources and more opportunities than the average child. They are expected by others to know more and accomplish more, however unfair this may seem. These differences are not only statistical; they make the child feel different. And feeling different is a hardship for most children. If a child is unprepared for these differences or responsibilities their self-esteem can be severely shaken and they can sink into depression or at the very least be an underachiever. Many children of wealthy parents fail to graduate from college. There is an alarming rate of teenage suicide among this population. As incredible as it may seem this is a seriously at-risk population.

I believe preparing your children for handling the responsibilities of wealth in a healthy manner is one of your primary tasks in your wealth preservation plan. Carrying out this responsibility is really quite simple. Your children should be part of the wealth management plan from the start. Too many wealthy parents don't consider the need to introduce young children to this process. But think about it this way. It is important for your child to learn to brush his teeth and make his bed, because it teaches responsibility and important life skills. He must do his own schoolwork too. Even if you have a nanny, housekeeper and gardener, your child probably likes to help around the house and this teaches him or her more useful adult life skills. But even more importantly than skill building, helping the adults makes the child feel as if he is an important contributor to the family. Many wealthy children do not feel important because everything is provided to them without their input or effort. So, give your child a chance to participate in the wealth management of your family estate. Perhaps they can contribute their own earnings to buying their own clothes or they can set up a savings account for college. If they are older they can use their savings to invest in stock or mutual funds. I know of one young man who paid his college tuition from earnings on his stamp and coin business. There is nothing so satisfying as creating your own way in the world.

There certainly are many other psychological challenges facing families in business, but parenting is probably the toughest. Keeping marital intimacy and communication alive and healthy is another. Attending to one's physical health is still another challenge that I find many wealthy families are poor at. And as I said earlier, one's spiritual commitment is sorely compromised by the many demands of a family enterprise and the expectations of one's community. But is it really so hard to keep these priorities in focus? All you have to do is remind yourself each day what you want to be remembered for when you die. If you are willing to take 10-20 minutes each day for a meditation or prayer to center and focus yourself on your most dearly held values and priorities, you will be guided by your open heart and higher spiritual purpose throughout the day.

Why are entrepreneurs often alone with their new ideas?

Thursday, January 04, 2001




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


One attribute that I believe is absolutely necessary is the ability to weather criticism. In order to do something that no one else has done, to go where no person has gone before, the entrepreneur must recognize that they will be criticized and humiliated by others, family and friend alike, throughout the process of developing their ideas. Selling your idea to the bank or venture capitalist is nothing compared to the agony of those negative looks you can get from the ones you love.

Jasmine was frustrated, confused and hurt. She had invited a group of friends over to her new place (a small business in her home, opening within a few months), but instead of compliments she received a lot of negativity. People were shocked that Jasmine would consider such an undertaking. Some were even angry that she had not shared her secret sooner. Several friends warned her of pitfalls in her plan. Another friend congratulated her on her success, but took it all back with a comment on how they would have done it differently. There was only one friend who gave her hearty congratulations. He even acknowledged that this project fit Jasmine to a "T" and that he could imagine a prosperous future for her.

Except for the one friend who gave Jasmine her due, why did the others react in such a negative way? It's hard to believe that Jasmine would have such unkind friends. Would these same friends warn the bride and groom at the wedding that they were making a bad choice or that they should stop everything now before it's too late? Probably not, but they did feel free to dump on Jasmine.

Envy is a logical choice but I think you need to dig a little deeper. Many of Jasmine's friends are successful in their own right, so why would they be envious of her accomplishments? Also many of them had heard her talk for months about her project, so it wasn't entirely new when they attended her party.

Another logical answer is that Jasmine's friends were trying to help her by warning her of problems. In other words they wanted to prevent her disappointment when she failed. Unfortunately in the warning is the implication that she will fail. Many people avoid success by preventing failure. It is a common human strategy. Mediocrity is the outcome.

In order to weather the negativity and continue on your path to business success, entrepreneurs need to understand something of how people accept change . . . change in you which produces change in their circumstances. When Jasmine invited her friends over to see her new business, she was introducing them to change. Her ideas were becoming reality, which meant that Jasmine was changing and that their relationship with her would change also. The first reaction that most people make to change is negative or denial. Many of Jasmines' friends acted as if the party was their first notification of the business venture, when in fact she had talked with them for months about it.

To check out this phenomenon scientifically a couple of psychologists conducted an experiment with volunteers. They wanted to find out just how people adapt to change, and what steps they go through to accept that their model of reality has to change to include new information. The psychologists photographed playing cards, one at a time, so that they could flash them in front of the subject at varying rates of speed. The subject was told that the experimenters wanted to learn how fast the subject could see the card, register the identity of the card, send that visual information to the part of the brain that interprets what we see, and then speak the name of the card. The results of this experiment are astounding.

At first the psychologists flashed the cards so quickly that the subject saw only a blur. Then as the cards slowed down the subject began to identify the cards without any problem. However, the psychologists had a little trick up their sleeve. Some of the cards were altered to make them incompatible with the standard for playing cards. For example, the ace of spades was red and the ten of clubs had nine spots. The psychologists wanted to know how slowly they would have to flash the cards for the subject to recognize the deception. And they wanted to know what steps the subject has to go through to change their "map of reality" to include the possibility that they had been duped.

Just as in real life the subject went through denial at first. They called off the playing cards with confidence even though the cards were altered. After another run through, the subject's denial began to slip, at least unconsciously. They named the cards as if they were normal playing cards, but they had a puzzled look on their face. In a third or fourth run through, the subject noted aloud that there was "something wrong" with a card, but they weren't sure what it was. With another trial or so, the subject correctly identified what was altered with one card, and could correctly identify all other alterations.

It appears then that Jasmine's friends are in varying stages of expanding their consciousness to include the possibility that Jasmine is changing. The negativity is a common way that we respond to change. It's as if denial will somehow keep the status quo so we don't have to learn anything new or demonstrate a lack of skill. But eventually, if Jasmine is persistent in following her business dream, her friends will adapt. They will deny; then wrinkle their noses; then comment on how "something is wrong"; then laugh and get it. When they get it, they will either join her in support or move away to a reality more to their liking.

If you need a lot of approval to follow a dream, you are probably not an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs rarely get approval in the initial stages of a project, when only they can see the spots on the cards. However, if the entrepreneur can hang in there, if you have done the research and you really believe in your idea, eventually your family and friends will back you. Most of the time they are not trying to hold you back. Don't be so paranoid. They just need time to alter their perceptions to include the new possibilities you have created.

Entrepreneurs live and breathe their businesses in everyday lives

Tuesday, December 05, 2000




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


At one of our Entrepreneurial Couple Networking Breakfasts, Steven was trying to describe to a new member what it means to be an entrepreneur. "It's like when you're buying orange juice at the grocery store. I think twice about buying the more expensive brand, because I realize that every penny saved makes a difference for our business."

There's more here than saving a few cents. Steven is demonstrating the basic philosophy of successful entrepreneurs. It's not really how much money he saves on orange juice that will make his business successful. The significance of his statement is that to be an entrepreneur, you must think like an entrepreneur. By considering the cost of orange juice, Steven is aware that he has made the success of the business a top priority. He thinks about the business needs even in the simple act of picking up orange juice for his family.

If you want to be an entrepreneur you must think like an entrepreneur. In other words you must have a vision that is bigger even than your business idea. Your business is a part of your life, just like your marriage and your children. It's not a job you check in and out of. An entrepreneurial venture is a reflection of you, your values, your beliefs, your strengths and your faults. Even if you have another job to pay the bills while your business is getting going, the true entrepreneur does not think of his or her venture as a part-time business or a hobby. They live and breathe the business, day and night, week in and week out.

Yes it's true that this kind of commitment can cause problems for the entrepreneur. They sometimes make no time for their personal relationships or their own health. But if kept in perspective the entrepreneur can find tremendous satisfaction in working at something he or she has created. Watching this creation grow, seeing it benefit his or her family, achieving a long dreamed of goal . . . all of this can be quite thrilling.

Interestingly Steven is not even the founder of the business. He is what I call a supportive spouse, the one who works at a job to provide the income and insurance benefits for the family, while his wife pursues the business venture. But Steven is thinking like an entrepreneur too. He realizes that as a spouse his attention needs to be focused on the welfare of the business every bit as much as his wife. Successful entrepreneurs frequently have glowing praise for their spouses, the people without whom they could never have succeeded. So not only do you have to think like an entrepreneur, but your spouse needs to think like one too, or at least be open to supporting your vision.

Entrepreneurship is not for the feint of heart. It is a tremendous responsibility to recognize that every action you take is related to the business and to the people who depend upon that business, such as you, your family, your employees and customers. When Steven considers which orange juice to buy, he is weighing all of these considerations. It may surprise you but entrepreneurs are not really risk takers. In fact they weigh all of their decisions very carefully. While they may be willing to go where the average person is fearful of going, they analyze every move to reduce the risk as much as possible. Because their venture is a top priority, and because they think in terms of the big picture, the entrepreneur buys the orange juice that is good for his family and good for his business.

If you believe you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur, ask yourself if you can do the tedious work of integrating your every move and decision into the template of a business venture. True entrepreneurs don't even realize that they think this way. It is just natural for them to be whole-brained thinkers, with their heads in the future, but their feet firmly planted in the present. When they buy orange juice, they may not really think about the cost, but they are aware that time and money are precious, and that they want to use them wisely to accomplish their dreams.

Investing in yourself pays off in business, personal relationships

Friday, October 06, 2000




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


"I feel like I'm always walking on eggshells around you!"

"I never seem to know what will make you happy!"

"Why can't you make up your mind?"


If you have ever made these comments or heard them from others, then you know how exasperating this kind of relationship can be, whether it is a personal or business relationship. Never really sure where you stand with the other person leads to this problem. Either you are not being clear or the other person is holding back. And often the reason for the reticence is fear of appearing selfish.

Especially among women there is a fear that if she speaks up about her desires, or dares to put her needs first, she will appear selfish and unloving, or worse yet, aggressive. Not wanting to rock the boat, the woman holds back her own opinion, only later to find that her husband, coworkers, even employees are mad at her. I have had more than one entrepreneurial husband complain that he would love to know what his wife's opinion was on the subject. Because he doesn't know where she stands, decisions are unclear and projects are stalled.

A side affect of being "nice" but unclear is that the woman often develops resentments because she is not being recognized. These resentments grow and do not go unnoticed by others. Unfortunately others do not know why she is annoyed, but do feel as if they are walking on eggshells around her. If the spouse, friends, coworkers or employees are not able to cut through the communication problem, they may also begin to hold back for fear of an argument. Then no one knows what anyone wants or what is going on. Obviously this is not good for business relations not to mention the marriage.

The reason this problem is more common for women than men is that women are more concerned about maintaining balance in their relationships whether they work in a family firm or not. Unfortunately most women tire themselves out trying to keep everything in balance, when a few shakeups are in order. For example, in one study the researchers found that career women (including entrepreneurial women) are very reluctant to change things in their work environment if it will upset their spouse, their employees or their customers. Instead these women just do more and more and more to accommodate the wishes of others, growing more tired, annoyed and depressed as time goes by. While balance is a nice goal, it is not always the way to get there. In order to keep creativity alive, in order to grow a business (or a family) there are many changes and corrections that need to be made along the way. Maintaining the status quo may mean stagnation.

The best gift you can give people you care about and work with is to be clear with them about your goals and desires. Even if they don't agree with you or don't like your goals, at least they know where you stand. Nothing is hidden. The agenda is on the table and negotiations can proceed. It also may be that your difference of opinion is just what the system needs to be more profitable and productive.

Remember when you were a small child and got a new dress or a new toy or accomplished a new feat like tying your shoes? Weren't you excited about the acquisition? Didn't you want to share it with others and watch their faces light up too? Didn't you feel proud? Those days have long gone and we have been socialized to hide many of our accomplishments and opinions because they may not be acceptable, especially if you are a woman. But it is very important to put your true self out there or you will confuse others and deprive them of your talents.

Here's another way to look at it. Most people spend their paycheck and if there is anything left other, they may put it into savings or invest it. The problem is that there is usually nothing left over to save each payday. The advice of many financial planners is to put money into savings first and then adapt your budget to live on what's left. With this latter method you are much more likely to actually save money and create wealth. Just as with saving money, it is equally important to put yourself first (or invest in yourself first). By putting yourself first, by letting people know what you want and who you are, you are investing in yourself in a way that will pay off tremendously. People won't have to walk on eggshells around you. They will know what your talents are and how to benefit by them. You will surround yourself with people who appreciate you instead of people who need you to appreciate them. This creates an energizing flow between people, just as wealth invested, creates more wealth.

People - Making in the Family Business

Thursday, September 14, 2000




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 often work 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 employees as well. The way marital and family obligations are handled affects management style with employees and vice versa.

For example, in family firms where spouses work together, management style must be assessed in three arenas: 1) marital, 2) parenting, and 3) business management. Furthermore, the integration of these three styles must be assessed.

What is your marital style?

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 on 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. Some are attracted to opposites. Some want someone like Mom. Whatever your marital style - know it. Don't assume that it is irrelevant in your family firm. This style shows in the boardroom 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.

What kind of a parent are you?

If a couple has children, whether they work in the business or not, be aware of parenting style too. Parenting style is affected by 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 and makes decisions as the leader of the family, but includes children when appropriate so that the children gradually learn 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 possibly, very depressed family. Discussing differences about parenting and making a united plan is the best thing parents can do for the family structure. Equally so, it is important that parent/owners determine if they are treating employees the way they treat their children.

What about your management style?

Management style at work is the third aspect of family/business style that needs to be evaluated. It can be categorized as one of the 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 their 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.

Members of a family firm are in the position of understanding these influences better than most. A family business is a delicate balance of the interacting systems of marriage, family and 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, look no further. But, if you desire alternative styles to keep up with the changes in your business and your personal life, look for answers to the questions in this article.

Will your style work in the 21st century?

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 your 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 out lives. How you treat employees and how you want them to treat you is dependent upon your understanding and utilization of these early lessons.

The business of people making.

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 our children are shaped by the family firm - just as my daughter saw 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 contribute to 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.

Are You An Entrepreneur?

Friday, April 07, 2000




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


Oddly this question came to me while I was attending a conference on entrepreneurship and small business in San Antonio in February. The reason this is odd is that there were few entrepreneurs in the audience. Instead the attendees were professors of business schools from across the country. These are the professors at prestigious business schools such as Harvard, the University of Michigan, Stanford, and UCLA that teach courses on business, marketing and management. They even teach courses on entrepreneurship, but most of these professors don't own their own enterprise. They study entrepreneurs. They develop theory about entrepreneurs. They even teach courses for entrepreneurs, but they don't "walk the talk."

Until fairly recently entrepreneurship has not even been a topic of conversation in the nation's top business schools, for the simple reason that business schools are primarily about training professional managers and future professors. The graduate students from these schools go on to work in corporate America, working their way up the career ladder, hoping to reach the presidency some day, or at least earn a key to the executive washroom. It's not that these professional managers are not talented, nor that they lack leadership qualities. They are creative and innovative too. However, they are not entrepreneurs.

If you are an entrepreneur, or are married to one, or know one personally, chances are the entrepreneur did not go to business school. Or if they did, they dropped out (i.e. Bill Gates) when they learned that business school was not going to open the doors of opportunity. A few entrepreneurs managed to stay to graduation, but they were probably bored out of their minds, just biding their time until they could do what they really wanted to do. My brother-in-law Rick is like this. To please his father, he went to law school, even joined a law firm after graduation. However, soon he realized that he was too restless to work for anyone else. Before he turned 30, he was heading up his own firm and well close to achieving his dream of being a multi-millionaire.

True entrepreneurs don't come from business schools. They come from engineering, medicine, anthropology, the arts (all of them), psychology, computer sciences. They are liberal arts majors, history majors, athletes, general studies majors, high school graduates, even high school dropouts. They come from all walks of life and have as varied life experiences as is humanly possible. This is why the entrepreneur has been so hard to define. You just can't fit them into a category. Psychologists have been trying to do this for years, but there is no reliable personality test for the traits of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs aren't a type of person. They are people who are entrepreneurial.

The closest I can come to defining the entrepreneur is that this person has vision. They are able to see the big picture like no one else. And they are determined to accomplish their vision. In other words they are extremely hardworking and tenacious. They are no more intelligent than others; no more creative either. But this vision is a special gift that puts the entrepreneur light years ahead of the ordinary person. With vision the entrepreneur is able to see opportunity before others.

Even more important than vision is purpose. The vision is a like a bright beacon that guides the entrepreneur toward his or her goals. However, to determine those goals in the first place, the entrepreneur has to have purpose. Most entrepreneurs will tell you that they "just had to do it." They have known what they were about since they were children. Their purpose is not always clearly defined in a business plan, but they have been pursuing it nevertheless. The successful entrepreneur is true to his or her purpose for a lifetime, regardless of the enterprise they engage in.

One local entrepreneur loved to build things as a little boy. He went on to get a degree in engineering and eventually started a manufacturing plant. But his purpose is deeper than that. He doesn't just like to build things; he has to. And he doesn't just like to build things; he has to contribute to the community. Although this man is an engineer by education and training, he is really a builder of ideas.

Not all entrepreneurs are millionaires either. Another local entrepreneur is a minister and artist. Since she was a little girl she loved to draw and paint and sculpt. She never really fit into the mainstream, but she always blamed it on her dysfunctional family. Now she realizes that she was preparing herself to carry out an important purpose in life. Through art (her own and that of those she counsels) she helps people discover their spiritual mission.

The saving grace of the conference was the noon keynote speaker on Friday, Marjorie Alfus. I was so inspired by Marjorie's speech, that I jumped to my feet after her talk and started a standing ovation. At 78 years of age, Marjorie epitomizes the American Entrepreneur. Although she has made her wealth and could retire, she can't stand being bored. She is taking her twentieth century entrepreneurial experiences and translating them into the twenty-first century, by creating a web business. Marjorie made her wealth by outsourcing and just-in-time inventory, when other twentieth century entrepreneurs were putting their money into brick and mortar. Now she can use that good common sense to succeed at her new venture, www.golfgizmos.com. With a modem, fax and world wide merchandising contacts, Marjorie will probably clean up.

If you don't have a knack for vision or you are not sure of your purpose, take heart. You may still be an entrepreneur who is holding back. It takes a lot of courage to follow your heart and create a dream that no one else can see or support. All entrepreneurs have one more thing in common. Before they are successful, no one really understands them, but with success they are much appreciated.

Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S., Licensed Psychologist and Family/Business Consultant is the author of ENTREPRENEURIAL COUPLES: Making It Work at Work and at Home (1998, Davies-Black). She can be reached at (360) 256-0448 or www.kmarshack.com.

Know yourself first to be true to yourself, successful in business

Thursday, February 03, 2000




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


Which would you rather have, an educated customer or one who requires that you walk them through everything? Would you rather have a customer who is familiar with your product or industry, who has background negotiating business deals, who uses normal business systems such as estimates and purchase orders, who can read a schematic? Or would you rather have a customer who knows nothing of these things and you must explain and justify every painful detail, every step of the way.

Let's put it another way. Wouldn't you rather that your customer already knows the basics of building a warehouse, so that you can get down to negotiating price and materials? Wouldn't you rather that your customer is already knowledgeable about farming equipment in general so that you can quickly explain the benefits of modernizing with your new machine? Wouldn't you rather your customer have purchased and sold a home before, so that they are more realistic about the home-buying marketplace?

Of course there are times when a naïve customer is easier to deal with than a sophisticated one. Occasionally the sophisticated customer thinks he or she knows everything, when they really have just enough knowledge to be dangerous. But by and large your work is cut in half when you have a knowledgeable, educated customer who knows what it takes to get the job done with you. At the very least it is easier if your customer is bright enough and open enough to learn quickly and accepts your expertise.

Ah, but the world is not perfect. So much of your professional time is spent educating, persuading and hand-holding in order to complete your job. But for yourself I would suggest being an educated consumer as often so you can. If you are a family business owner, this means becoming knowledgeable about the connections between your personal life, your family life and your work life. Understanding your personal family dynamics and how they interact with your business creates a more successful business and family life. Even if you are not a family business owner, your personal life influences your business decisions, and vice versa. Therefore, it is well worth your while to become more knowledgeable about your personality style, your family values, your blind spots and how they shape your daily actions.

Come to terms with family, business

Darvin, for example, never really considered that growing up under his authoritarian father affected his business, nor his parenting style. As a child Darvin was expected to work in the family business from the time he was about nine. Whether he was sick or home from school on vacation, Darvin was expected to pitch in. Darvin's father meant well enough. He was trying to prepare his son for the future and he wanted an heir for the business. However, Dad never considered that his son might have other career interests. He also gave Darvin little time to have a childhood.

When Darvin grew up, married and started having his own children, he was determined that his own sons would be free to choose their own direction. Darvin was now the owner of the business his father had built, but he didn't want his sons thinking they were obligated to work in the family firm. He encouraged their other interests and gave them liberal time to play. He coached soccer teams and volunteered in the boy's classrooms, something his father never did.

However, one day, one of his teenagers implied that he expected to work for Darvin when he grew up. In fact the boy suggested that he wanted to be the president of the company some day! Darvin was shocked at his son's interest, especially since Darvin did not think this particular child had what it takes to be president. Then another even more shocking realization came over Darvin. After spending all these years encouraging his children to follow their hearts, he had paid no attention to grooming as interested child for coming into the family business. In fact, he had almost resisted the idea.

So, to avoid Dad's mistakes, Darvin made different mistakes, which is a common problem for family business owners who do not recognize that childhood experiences shape you as a business person. Now the task for Darvin is to educate himself about all he learned and interpreted as a child and their connection to his current adult life as a business owner, husband and father. If he is to be a success at all these roles and prepare the business for s healthy transition when he retires, he needs to be educated about family dynamics and how they interact with business planning.

Not everyone is an entrepreneur

Elliott is not the owner of a family firm, but he feels very close to his staff, many of whom have been with him since the founding of the firm. He literally built the business from nothing into a respected national manufacturer.

Elliott is a "can-do" guy. His technical training helped him create the idea for his business, but he had neither business nor marketing training when he set off on his own. Nevertheless, Elliott believes that he can accomplish whatever he puts his mind to. If he lacks knowledge or a skill, he learns it. He reads books, attends seminars and asks experts, then applies the knowledge to his own unique business. This flexibility is the reason Elliott's business has grown so rapidly. He is adaptable.

Elliott's problem is the exact opposite of Darvin's. Because of his confident and flexible approach to problem-solving, he has extremely high expectations of others. Elliott naively thinks his managers, staff and line workers have these same abilities. While it is important to encourage the best in employees so that they can rise to their highest level of competence, Elliott often promotes untrained, unskilled workers beyond their capabilities to a level of incompetence.

For example, he has promoted a welder to a position requiring an engineering degree and a bookkeeper to a position as controller. Even if these employees have the potential to grow into these positions, they do not currently have the skills to handle their jobs, which leads to failure --- failure for the individuals, as well as for the company.

If Elliott is going to grow his company further, he needs to get a handle on this problem. As he understands better that his unique personality is not the standard for all people (in fact, very few people are entrepreneurial), ha can make better use of his employees' talents. He can't always promote from within, but he can find other ways to honor employee loyalty. When a business gets as large as Elliott's, it's time to hire professionally trained managers and staff.

Being a success in business means being honest about your personal limitations too. It means becoming educated about the unique way your personality, childhood lessons and adult business decisions interact. Knowing your values and where you learned them enables you to choose which ones you want to keep, which ones are practical. Knowing your personality better enables you to design systems that complement your contributions. Darvin has been trying to set his children free to follow their own calling, ignoring that at least one of them may be a lot like himself. Elliott, on the other hand, has been grooming everyone to be like him, ignoring that his employees may have a different calling and different contributions to make.

How many of you have problems brewing that are similar to Darvin's and Elliott's? It may be hard for you to define your problem even though you know you have one because you don't have the required education. But the solution lies in becoming educated about the interaction of personality, family dynamics and business systems. When you finally develop enough insight into how you came to be who you are and how others came to be who they are, you can correct subtle problems such as Darvin's and Elliott's and avert major disaster when the problems are still small. Remember, we must know who we are first in order to be true to ourselves.

One man gives back to the community that supported him

Monday, October 25, 1999




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


Let's say you have worked for the same boss for 15 years. You are a loyal, hard worker who takes pride in your contribution to the company. You have a fair boss, who pays you well and trusts you to handle your responsibilities like a mature adult. You have good benefits, including a tidy retirement that has been generously matched by your employer. If you call in sick or just want an extra day off occasionally, your boss assumes you have a good reason. To top it all off, everyone else in the company is treated the same way, so you have a happy group of coworkers. Of course you are looking forward to retirement, because work is not your whole life, but for now you couldn't find a better place to work.

Then one day, you receive a letter in the mail from your boss. He announces that he has sold the company and plans to retire. You had heard the scuttlebutt but weren't sure if it was true; now you know. The letter goes on to reassure you that your boss has negotiated for all employees to keep their jobs; nice guy again. You sigh, because at 52 you're not quite ready to retire. Then you pull the bonus check from the envelope. For all your years of service and dedication your boss is rewarding you with one million dollars . . . tax-free!

This fairytale is real, believe it or not. Bob Thompson of Belleville Michigan surprised his 550 workers with similar letters. All told, Bob divvied up $128 million among his employees. Bob's "share the proceeds plan" included paying hourly workers who already have pension plans, $2000 for each year of service. Salaried workers, without pension plans were given annuities they can cash in at age 55 or 62. Those annuities range from $1 million to $2 million. Thompson even included some retirees and widows in his plan. And to insure that employees actually reached the one million mark, he paid the taxes on these gifts, which amounted to $25 million.

Bob Thompson sold his 40-year-old firm for $422 million, but long before he grew this big he and his wife had planned the gifts. Years before he had already included a number of employees in his will. Bob is not a man who has always lived with money. He started the road construction business in his basement with $3500.00 and the support of his teacher wife.

Although over the next forty years, the money did roll in, money wasn't Bob's goal. He said, "People work exceedingly hard for us. It's a tough business, and this is a demanding company. Some people make a lot of money in the stock market, but we're dependent on people, so it would just not be fair not to do it. They've allowed me to live the way I want to live."

In addition to the gifts to employees Thompson plans to gift even more to other entities. "It's sharing the good times. I don't think you can read more into it. I'm a proud person. I wanted to go out a winner, and I wanted to go out doing the right thing." Yes, I agree Bob Thompson is a winner, but he's more than that. As an entrepreneur he took his responsibility seriously. He used his talents to evolve a business to the level where he could give even more back to the community who supported his growth. This stage of development is called Stewardship.

A business, like a child (and adults for that matter) goes through stages of development. Given the right mix, the business will complete its evolution at stewardship. According to psychologist Will McWhinney there are three stages of growth for a family business. The first stage is that of Entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is the stage of early innovations, niche formation and creativity. Because of the entrepreneur's determination and charisma, there is high cohesion and commitment from all in the company.

The next stage is Ownership during which there is a need for stability and security to nurture the family. During this stage the family business structure becomes formalized and institutionalized.

The third stage and the one that Bob Thompson epitomizes is Stewardship. Stewardship results when the business is well established, the children are grown, and the founder has developed beyond the need to use the business for his expression of personal power. As the business expands, there is more structural elaboration, adaptation, and possibly decentralization.

Stewardship offers the family business the opportunity to give something back to the community. At the developmental stage of stewardship, family businesses often establish charitable foundations or employee stock option plans, but the family firm has even more to offer. Because family-owned firms are microcosms of the society at large, how the family manages its wealth and influence can have a major impact on society. You must go beyond simple economic theory to understand this influence. The values of the family and the culture of the family firm can have tremendous social impact not only on the quality of commerce, but on the total community.

Naturally many people want to know what Thompson's employees plan to do with their windfalls. Some have indicated that they will buy new furniture or a new car. Others are spending it on much needed braces for a granddaughter or care for a mentally handicapped child. Still others are putting aside money for college tuition and retirement. But there are a few who say they've been inspired to help others. "Of course, that's what I want to hear," says Thompson.

Stewardship is a wonderful stage of life for a family business because it offers the entrepreneur the chance to be proud of his or her accomplishments and go out like a winner, as Bob Thompson has. And it puts the entrepreneur and the business in the important position of modeling for others in the community not only how to be winners, but how to do the right thing. Bob Thompson's idea of winning is sharing the wealth. For him, stewardship is using his wealth to improve the lives of others. But beyond the money, stewardship involves changing the lives of people forever.

Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S., Licensed Psychologist and Consultant to Families in Business, is also the author of ENTREPRENEURIAL COUPLES: Making It Work at Work and at Home. Dr. Marshack is hosting a seminar for entrepreneurial couples on October 15th and 16th and a free breakfast roundtable on November 5th. Call for details at 360-256-0448 or www.kmarshack.com.

The Survivor Entrepreneur

Friday, August 06, 1999




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


Are you impatient with details? Do others work too slowly? Are you hypercritical? Do you make things happen? Do others admire you? Can you usually handle twice the work of others? Are you tenacious? Are your successes due to your own hard work? Do you thrive on adversity?

If you recognize yourself in this short quiz, then you are probably a survivor entrepreneur, someone who overcame great obstacles to accomplish their dreams in life. Many entrepreneurs fit this profile. For example, if you are impatient with details, it is because you are a big picture thinker. You are a visionary who can see the outcome before the average person. While the details are important in creating the outcome, without the vision, your life can become nothing but maintaining the details of life. You are impatient with details and with people who spend their days committed to details. But without those detail people, would you have anyone to help you turn your dreams into reality? Others don't really work too slowly, but it appears so to the survivor personality.

Because your survival depended upon quick action and attending to what was immediately necessary to accomplish your dream, this type of entrepreneur has honed efficiency to a fine science. Grass does not grow under your feet. Your gaze is constantly on the horizon, looking for the next opportunity or the next problem to solve. If you're a passenger in the car (which is usually not the case!) you tell the driver to turn right at the next intersection before arriving at the intersection. It seems slow and inefficient to you to tell the driver only as you arrive at the intersection or even after you have passed it, which is what the "slow" people do. However, those slow people do enjoy the ride more than you do. For them the fun is on the way to the destination. Your ability to do a lot of work is based upon efficiency and vision. Because you already can see where you're going and because you are constantly scanning the environment for improvements, you are a marvel at being in the right place at the right time. However, when you err, you are exceptionally hard on yourself.

When you are usually right, it is hard to accept failure, even if a small one. Learn to accept failure graciously; you'll have more friends and supporters that way. Others may have experienced more failure than you have and they need to know that you understand and are human too. Don't stop being right, but be more patient with your errors and those of others. Yes the survivor entrepreneur makes things happen. He or she is a bundle of energy that few can keep up with. Because of your uncanny insight and charisma, you have the ability to be a great leader too. People admire you for your talents. They want to share in your good fortune by helping in some small way. Be aware of the important responsibility that you carry. A leader who engenders this kind of trust has to be extremely ethical. Do not assume because your charisma has won people over that those same people fully understand what they are agreeing to. You are the one with the vision. You need to be responsible to lead people where the need and want to go, not just what is best for you. Many survivor entrepreneurs underestimate their strengths. They often assume that others have the same level of tenacity, the same ability to work hard that they do. They may think others are lazy or weak because they can't keep up. The survivor entrepreneur believes that all it takes is applying him or herself to succeed. However, it's important for the survivor entrepreneur to realize that your big picture thinking is what has made you successful, not necessarily hard work. Because you can anticipate fairly accurately what the next move should be this saves you time, energy and many mistakes.

Others who do not have this skill must learn by trial and error, a timely and more laborious step-by-linear-step process. Not everyone has this visionary ability. It is your gift and one that should be used generously and wisely. Others have different gifts to contribute that are just as valuable, but without visionary ability, they really can't so easily understand what you grasp in an instant. So take the time to walk them through what you know. When they do understand your picture, you may find that the detail person or the linear thinker has a profound contribution that you overlooked. The word survivor is used to describe this type of entrepreneur because you have overcome extreme hardship to arrive at your successes. Some of you grew up in poverty. Some of you never knew one or even both of your parents. Some of you have overcome illness, physical disability, a poor education or learning problems to achieve the American Dream. Some people wither in the face of adversity but not the survivor entrepreneur. He or she views adversity as a challenge, as an opportunity to prove what he or she is made of. The adversity may not be pleasant, but conquering it is a thrill. In a crisis the survivor entrepreneur is the hero. However, it is important for survivors to be careful not to make a life of surviving. Some survivor entrepreneurs keep creating crises in their lives, often unconsciously, so that they can get the thrill of mastering the crisis. The entrepreneur may be able to handle this excitement but your family and friends may tire quickly of the emotional roller coaster. Save thesurviving for real adversity and take the time to stop and smell the roses with the ones you love. There are deep and profound rewards in the tiny things that occupy ordinary life too, if you will explore that territory. Just ask your child or grandchild to lead you to this simple life, even if only once in a while.

Living With an Authoritarian Entrepreneur

Thursday, April 01, 1999




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


He's strong. He's driven. He works 70 hours a week. He loves his wife and children immensely. He feels alone. He needs a lot of emotional support. He is intolerant of laziness. He is a perfectionist. He doesn't sleep well. He never lets failure stop him from success. He doesn't trust many people, if any. He has a short fuse. He has to work for himself. When he plays, he plays hard too. He is an expert. He is reliable, when he's there. He always has the answer. He has an ironclad will.

He is easily hurt, especially by his family, who doesn't alwaysappreciate him. At least this is what he thinks. As an Authoritarian Entrepreneur, he believes that he is doing a good job for family and employees, regardless of their protests. He can only see his point of view and assumes that others agree with it or otherwise are too immature to understand. Because he believes he is doing what is best for everyone, he pushes ahead with his plans, often ignoring the challenges, complaints and cries of those he is pushing aside. He feels befuddled, hurt, and betrayed then, when his wife or a child leaves him or worse.

It is hard for this type of entrepreneur to understand that he is not the center of the universe. And it is equally hard for those who love him to know what to do to solve the serious emotional and relationship problems that are created in his high-energy wake. In fact the authoritarian entrepreneur has no awareness that he has any problems, which makes it exceedingly difficult to get help. He believes that complaints are coming from weak people who do not know how to run their lives, nor how to appreciate him for running theirs.

Often this type of entrepreneur is very successful at his business (although not all successful entrepreneurs are authoritarian).

Because of his drive and power, he can succeed where others fail, by sheer will power. He can be quite charismatic, so many will follow. But those who enter his inner circle, such as wife and children, know another side to this man. He can be selfish and cruel in his lack of trust for the very people who are closest to him. He can ignore their needs, giving love only when it is convenient for him. He is intimidating and will swiftly settle a dispute by severing the relationship.

The authoritarian entrepreneur is an example of a good quality gone awry. That is, he travels on the notion that "the end justifies the means." There is nothing wrong with having goals. In fact, goals are the rewards that all human beings strive for. But in addition to goals it is equally important to attend to the method of accomplishing those goals. If the means to the end are unethical or hurtful of others, it may be worthwhile to re-evaluate the methods to discover means that work just as well to accomplish the goal, yet are compatible and supportive of the ones you love. Not all goals are worth it, if they destroy the important human relationships you are working so hard to provide for. This end-justifies-the-means drive comes from an insecurity deep inside the authoritarian entrepreneur. Anything or anyone who gets in his way is likely to get run over, because he has such a strong need to prove that he is OK. The source of this insecurity depends upon the individual. It may come from a childhood experience of being abused or threatened by a critical, distant, or aloof parent, whom the entrepreneur could never please. It may come from the lessons of a traumatic experience, such as war combat, wherein the entrepreneur learned to stay alive by doing whatever it took. It may come from an actual organic disability, such as dyslexia, making schooling difficult, and the entrepreneur all the more determined to prove he is smart or smarter-than. Whatever, the reason, the authoritarian entrepreneur has a fear of failure, tucked away deep inside that drives him to succeed at whatever the cost.

As if this negative driving force were not enough to alienate wife, children, friends and employees, the authoritarian entrepreneur is in a never ending cycle. No matter how great his material success, these individuals never seem to believe that they have arrived. In fact, some wives report that the greater their husband's successes, the greater their drive, intolerance, cruelty, and . . . depression. It is the depression that is proof to the authoritarian entrepreneur that he has not yet achieved his goals, so he keeps pushing to drive the depression away. Unfortunately the depression is actually the signal that he is failing at life, that he is pushing away the loving relationships that can mend thewounds caused by childhood abuse, wartime combat or classroom humiliation. The very quality that helps the authoritarian entrepreneur survive childhood abuse, or life-threatening combat, or the ignominy of illiteracy . . . stubbornness, is both their strength and their demise. Being too stubborn to acknowledge their successes, and the love of their families is foolish and will destroy what they have worked so hard for. Yet stubbornness can be used to learn the skills to build a new life out of sharing the joy and love of personal achievement with your loved ones. If you are an authoritarian entrepreneur or the family member of one, use this stubbornness or personal strength to attack the problem and solve it. You have intelligence and drive. You have already proven that you can succeed. Now admit your flaws and rebalance your life. Grieve your losses. Learn to love. Break the pattern of insecurity in your family that began with an abusive parent, or a thoughtless teacher, or a war that shaped a vulnerable teenager. By keeping those fears buried, you are perpetuating the insecurity into the next generation. As much as that negative energy (i.e., fear, anger and depression) has served you to create wealth, it has also alienated your family. Is this really the legacy you wish to pass onto your children?