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Are Your Kids Wrecking Your Business?

Starting Over

So what can you do to rectify a rocky start when a young adult enters the family business? First, bring the issue into perspective, Herz Brown suggests. Either the parent or the child can ask themselves, "If this weren't my child (or parent), how would I define this problem?" Is it a question of personality? Of being in the wrong position? Of not having enough experience? Of not communicating adequately? Of not having a method for resolving conflicts?

Once the problem has been identified, you can look for solutions. Maybe the child should work for another company in an allied field to gain experience, or maybe he or she should report to someone other than the parent. Maybe the parent and child can plan to meet once a week for an hour off the premises to discuss issues surrounding the business.

"Unfortunately, there's no magic [solution]," Lane says. But before tensions escalate and people become so rooted in their positions that there seems to be no possible solution, it's best to get an objective perspective. A skilled family business advisor can be helpful in sorting problems out and helping find solutions.

"For us, Gene Ronshangin was the person," says Craig. "He set the ground rules. He told the boys if they worked with him the way they worked with me, he would leave. Then, after he heard all sides, he encouraged me to get Sebastian and Michael more involved in decision-making roles because they had worked hard and proved themselves worthy of that.

"He also suggested creating a board of directors that meets quarterly. We did, and it has allowed the boys to air their ideas and goals with a group of people we all respect, and to get feedback from someone other than me. In fact, it's proved so successful, it's allowed us to go back to having dinners together and being a family again.

"All this has also helped us develop an exit strategy for me to retire," adds Craig. "My sons will assume the leadership roles in the business. And I'm delighted. They're superior young men who've been instrumental in growing this business. That's something I never thought I'd be able to say five years ago."

Contact Sources

LBF & Associates, (817) 735-1898, shlane@aol.com

Metropolitan Group, 230 Fort Lee Rd., Leonia, NJ 07605, (201) 461-7356

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This article was originally published in the September 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Bad Blood.

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