Kenneth Kaye

Family Management Team Building

Jones Inc.[not its real name] is a parts manufacturer with sales of $20 million. Its owner/chairman had turned the company’s operations over to two of his three sons, two sons-in-law, and one of his two daughters. Although each of the five managers had certain talents and at least four were working hard (and the business was profitable), they constantly criticized one another, backstabbing, openly defying one another’s procedures. There was no clear candidate to head the company. A history of alcoholism in this family contributed to concerns about two of the sons’ current relationships with alcohol.

After an initial two-day retreat in which we assessed their teamwork strengths and weaknesses, we met with the younger generation one day per month for a year in a blend of management team building and family therapy.

The outcome: an end to hostilities in favor of a decision to expand, diversify, and separate their business operations into two separate companies with enough leadership roles to go around. The siblings didn’t drop their concerns about one another’s behavior, but they did stop baiting and backstabbing. They began to make the best of their family ties. As they learned to distinguish between their unequal management reporting relationships and their equal board of directors’ roles, Dad became comfortable about completing his transfer of ownership to them and proceeding with his estate plan.

Also see Ken’s 2005 book The Dynamics of Family Business.

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