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Kathy Marshack News

Does Your Family Business Need Good Advice?

Monday, February 13, 2017


people holding pieces of a puzzle togetherThere are times in life when we all need good advice. Although you may take pride in your independence and individualism, most of us can agree that the right advice at the right time can save us a lot of heartache. Whether we seek it from a parent, mentor, therapist, or religious leader, we appreciate their insight. Even if the advice seems irrelevant, it might trigger your own thinking to evolve in a constructive direction.
 
What if you run a family business? Who do you go to for advice?
 
Maybe it is just you and your spouse, starting your own entrepreneurial venture as a couple. Or perhaps you have a more established family enterprise that has already been passed down for a couple of generations. Who do you turn to when there are communication problems, underlying tension, conflict over success planning, etc.?
 
After decades consulting with family businesses, I find many business owners are puzzled when their attorney or CPA suggests meeting with me before making important business decisions. What does a psychologist have to do with business? “We don’t need a shrink,” they say.
 
What are the benefits of a psychologist’s expertise when it comes to developing goals and resolving problems in a family business?
 
For entrepreneurial couples, it is important to remember that you are a married couple first, and business partners second. Your business partnership is an expression of the personality and values of you as the founders. If you want to run a successful business, you must prioritize and tend to the personal, emotional, and psychological aspects of your life and relationship before you can make good business decisions. Thus, one of your primary consultants needs to be a psychologist – preferably one familiar with entrepreneurial couples and their specific challenges.
 
When more members of the family are involved in the business, it is even more important to get sound advice. Many family businesses have been around for two or more generations and the children have grown up identifying themselves with the family business. What this means for many family firms is that the business is as much a part of the family as each family member is a part of the business.
 
Family businesses are really families with a business identity. As a psychologist, I have been able to get beneath the surface of some business problems to identify and rectify the emotional snags that are holding things up. There is nothing more frustrating or expensive than taking months to develop a new business strategy, only to have it sit there, going nowhere, because of a family dispute. Without help to work on the underlying issues, family tensions will affect the business.
 
One specific problem that many family firms deal with is a lack of open communication. Many family firms want to have open communication and resolve longstanding disputes. Why is it so hard? Even with the best of intentions, many families in business simply do not have the skills to address and resolve these problems. They need support and guidance by an objective psychologist who is trained in resolving problems within a family business. These are skills that can be learned! Look at it as a vital course in your continuing education program.
 
Do not let the “shrink” stigma hold you back. Rather, think of your psychologist as an integral part of your team of advisors. I have helped many entrepreneurial couples and families in business work together and thrive. If you live near Portland OR/Vancouver, WA, please contact my office to schedule an appointment.


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