Setting family member expectations early

IN my family business coaching work in Asia, I can confidently conclude that the satisfaction of each member of the family business is the key to their long lasting participation and support.

Without knowing what could make the members of the family feel fulfilled, making them work for the family enterprise and making them follow with what could be beneficial for the family business would only be like dragging them to do so, and the likelihood of it being short-lived is highly possible.

Therefore, it is important to make the family members satisfied, because it would give meaning and purpose to their lives. Where there is meaning and purpose, the longevity of commitment of the people involved would absolutely be limitless.

What will satisfy a family member?

Determining what could make each and every member of the family business satisfied requires attention to personal needs, desires, issues and expectations. The emergence of these factors is not always likely to become readily obvious. Some of the family members could only be trying to avoid confrontation, but are actually dissatisfied with how they are treated in the family.

Communication is key

Other members of the family who are not holding any position in the company could feel left out, even if they really possess noteworthy insights. In order to respond to these circumstances, an active engagement to open communication about family and business matters, and inclusion of all members of the family in meetings for planning purposes are steps needed to find out what could satisfy everyone. However, there could be a possibility when one or a number of members in the family might have irrational demands. But no matter how irrational those demands could be, those are still points to address and should not be ignored, or else whoever those family members could be, they might retaliate or quit, abandoning whatever their responsibilities are in the family business.

Human nature at its best: set expectations early

Paying attention to the needs, desires, issues and expectations is the beginning of satisfying the members of the family who are united in a business. In this way, the need to express and be listened to of each member is recognized. Appropriate attention could give anybody a sense of being valued and appropriate action could keep the integrity of the company true to the eyes of everyone in its sphere of influence.

The question is, what could make the members of the family business satisfied? Below are some basic factors to answer this question.

The founder of the family business is satisfied when he or she:

-Is being understood by the entire family to the best of their abilities that he or she is devoting time and effort for the business, because it is the source of the family’s livelihood

-Has control over the business

-Has people working with him or her, both family and non family members who are trustworthy and reliable

-Is able to do everything possible to make the company become stable and expanding

-Overcomes his or her worries on translating to the children the importance of maintaining the family business for the benefit of the family, gaining their interest and training them on how to handle the family business according to its vision and mission for the future

-Confidently chooses the next leader in the business and applies an effective succession and plan

-Retires freely with all the perks and benefits

-Has the prerogative to comment and advice about the family business despite his or her retirement

-At peace that his or her children are not entitled and greedy and they have embraced the true meaning of stewardship

-Is satisfied and relieved that after years of hard work, his or her legacy is now ensured due to governance and ownership

To quote my family business colleague at the Ateneo Graduate school of Business, Prof. Danny Barrenechea, there are five ultimate challenges for any family-owned enterprise:

  1. A healthy and stable business that is ready to explore opportunities;
  2. A healthy and harmonious family, free from any major conflict;
  3. A family business that thrives on professionalism, excellence and meritocracy;
  4. A family business that will transition to a family-inspired business run by professional leaders; and finally,
  5. A family business that embraces governance and stewardship so it will continue from generation to generation
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