Archive for April, 2013

Parents: Don’t let style differences implode your succession


In case you haven’t noticed, we are all wired with different behavioral styles!  Look around and you’ll see it: fast and decisive, slow and methodical, spontaneous (and lacking accountability), and consistent and conservative.  See behavioral styles (and my acting ability) at work in a funny four minute video click here to watch the video.

The bottom line is people are wired a certain way and the sooner you accept that and work with it in a positive way, the better off you’re going to be.  I can’t tell you how many times I come across fathers and sons, or mothers and daughters who are pulling their hair out in frustration due to a reaction to the other person’s style.

I’ve had two sons in the past 10 days who are ready to leave the family business because dad insists that the business be run in his predominant style.  I understand mom and dad’s concern.  They know their approach has been successful so far in the family business and they are nervous that a different approach won’t be successful.  Many times mom and dad’s retirement is relying on the future success of the business.  There’s good reason to be nervous!

People today thrive on being able to express and work with their unique gifts and personality.  If you’re trying to smother that, stifle it, or flat out kill it off, you will run your children out of business and a potentially viable retirement plan (having your children buy you out of the business).

What you need to do is to identify the style differences so you can begin to speak to each other in each other’s language and build your team around styles and strengths.  Don’t try to make a methodical introvert your new sales leader and conversely don’t try to make a gregarious salesperson your controller!

A successful family business learns how to identify inherent talents and as Jim Collins says in Good to Great put the “right people in the right seats on the bus.”

The problem is too many times moms and dads get anxious and nervous with the next generation’s style.  That’s where governance comes in.  I just finished a project helping a family make a successful family business succession transition by helping the parents set up clear goals and accountability for the next generation leader and the business that must be met in order for the succession to be completed.  Click here to see a video with mom talking about the process.

So I’m not asking you to simply roll over and not worry about the style differences.  I’m suggesting that you embrace the differences, build your team and accountability measures keeping the behavioral styles in mind.

Most importantly, realize that we are all wired differently.  No style is better than another.  Stop making each other wrong for having unique styles and approaches, and start learning how to appreciate each other and set each other up for success!


Questions you should answer before leaving the family business

I can’t tell you how many times I hear frustrated family business members talking about making that final (and BIG) decision to leave the family business. I know firsthand what it feels like because I wrestled with the same decision for many years before calmly and peacefully reaching my decision.

That’s the important part. I always encourage those contemplating departure to make sure and explore every avenue of possibility before reaching their decision. Leaving the family business is a big decision. You want to make sure that you’ve done your due diligence in terms of your own thought process, as well as exploring others’ thought processes.

In most cases there isn’t a need for a quick decision.  In fact, take some time, give it some thought, and reach out for wise counsel from others who have been on a similar path. Uncle Walsh always said a fast decision is usually a bad decision. If you’d like to see a young man’s thought process, click here and watch the video of someone I coached during the process.

For the most part I’ve found that very few people regret the decision to leave the family business. Additionally, who says you can’t come back? I held that as a possibility in my mind. I figured if I ventured out and things didn’t go well, I would have felt better for having tried than the regret of never having tried at all. Doesn’t that sound like the old saying, “better to the loved and lost than never have loved at all?” “Better to venture out and fail than to never venture out all” -I absolutely believe that.

One of the most common reoccurring themes I hear with family business members in their mid-40s is the lingering question of “could I have done well out of my own?” It sounds a bit like a recent AARP poll of people’s top regrets at the end of their life. One is having “the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

I encourage clients to ponder a series of questions that will help them gain clarity during this very important process. Another thing I encourage folks to do is to be open and transparent with their family members about their own family business issues and disappointments and encourage them to go through your thought process with you.

My uncle and I had many conversations about areas of the business philosophy where we were not aligned. This allowed me to test my own resolve and conviction to my ideas and gauge his willingness or interest in changing directions. This was an important part of me getting to a peaceful and calm decision.

Leaving the family business will have an impact on you and those family members who remain. Sometimes when they ponder your exit, it gives them the impetus to make changes to improve the situation. Sometimes it doesn’t, but that’s okay, because at the end of the day, as a coach , what I want for you is to know that you gave it your best!

So set aside an hour and ponder the following questions. Being able to write your answers in a journal is a great way for you to be able to really explore your thinking, come back later and re-examine it. Make yourself write the answers to these questions.

◊Does the thought of leaving the family business excite you, scare you, frustrate you? As you look deeper what are your beliefs underlying those emotions?

◊Can you clearly articulate the number one reason why you want to leave?

◊Do you believe you’ve done everything in your power to bring forth needed change that would have you change your decision?

◊Is there anything else you could do? Are there any other resources you could bring to the table to try to bring an objective set of eyes to the situation?

◊Have you considered any sort of middle ground solution? Perhaps you could spend time getting retrained or retooled while still working in the family business. (I attended school at night and on weekends to get the necessary training to venture out to my next endeavor.)

◊If you fast-forward your life 20 years and look at the two roads; leaving the family business and not leaving the family business, what comes to mind? (Regardless of the amount of success have in your new endeavor?)

◊Do you have another job or profession you feel excited about going into? If not, have you considered spending more time contemplating that before you leave? Have you considered adjusting your own expectations so as to make your current situation more tolerable?

◊Have you solicited the input of:
      ◊Your family members?

      ◊Your significant other?

      ◊Your closest advisers outside the business?

◊Have you considered if you leave the business and it doesn’t go well, will you be okay with that? Would you ever consider coming back?


After you’ve answered all these questions, if you feel clear that it’s time to go then I encourage you to follow your heart. If you’re not 100% clear, I encourage you to give yourself time to get 100% clear or 100% committed to the decision. You have time.

My process for leaving my family business  was one of the most difficult and emotion filled decisions I ever made in my life. Now 15 years after that decision I still feel a great sense of pride for having the courage to venture out and still have no regrets.

The 9/11 crisis came shortly after I ventured out on my own. I knew failure was not an option. I have weathered the storm of one of the greatest economic recessions and still got two kids through college. Those challenges have been both daunting and extremely rewarding to have gone through. More than anything, going out on your own gives you the chance to put your money where your mouth is, put all of your hard work and focus on the line and really feel what it’s like to build something from the ground up.

There are no assurances within a new career change or new business endeavor. I do feel quite confident in saying if you stay miserable in your family business you will have squandered an opportunity to create a better life for yourself.

If I can help you in your process please lean on me. I’ll be glad to give you some time as my gift to you.


  • Posted by Coach Pete
  • Thursday, April 11th, 2013
  • Comments Off on Questions you should answer before leaving the family business

Ignoring poor performers in the family business can ruin your team

slacker-at-workIgnoring poor performance can do serious harm, not only to your team, but to the player who is under performing.

In the family business setting, it can often feel like you have to tell your family member they are “no good” and risk causing bigger, deeper conflicts in the family community.  But trust me, not dealing with it is going to cause bigger issues down the road.

That’s why I encourage all of my family business participants to build a “coaching culture” with their team so the team gets used to, and expects consistent, constructive performance feedback.

As one of my idols, John Wooden said, “Great coaches know how to give feedback without causing resentment.”  True coaching leaders create a partnership based upon trust, mutual respect and an unwavering commitment to performance excellence.  Their team members expect the coach to challenge them to bring out their best!

I’ve developed a simple three question approach that helps coaching leaders quickly diagnose performance issues and have a path to discussing the issue with the team member.  You can get access to this practice and all of our deliberate practices by clicking here.

Don’t ignore poor performance!  It can seriously undermine your team.  When your team members see company goals and mottos that are all about achieving greatness and see you turning your back on a poor performer, they will seriously question the integrity of the organization and you as the leader!