Your child or mine? That can cause quite a rift in the organization when the time comes to decide who will head the business. For New England Coffee in Malden, Massachusetts, that decision was reached rather uniquely. When the third generation was ready to take over, there were three third-generation individuals qualified to assume leadership of the company-which was founded in 1916 by two brothers and a cousin. "We knew our parents were having a difficult time making a decision," says Jim Kaloyanides, now president of the company. "So the three of us got together and decided I would be president. When we presented our plan, they were thrilled they didn't have to make the choice."
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Kaloyanides now runs the business in a team-oriented style, which isn't that unusual. "Team management at the top is now normal at most organizations," says Aronoff. It's especially helpful in a two-family firm because it allows room at the top for both families. Aronoff points to a 1997 survey of nearly 4,000 family businesses done by Kennesaw State and Loyola University in Chicago (and sponsored by Mass Mutual and Arthur Andersen), which indicated that 40 percent were contemplating co-leadership among successors (although only 10 percent actually operated that way at the time).