This gets asked a lot in various forms. That’s a little like people asking if it’s hard or easy being in a family?

While it is true that many family businesses are created because of the entrepreneurial spirit of their founders – my experience is that founders often created their businesses as a means to provide for their families. This is critically important to understand as a family adviser.

Our clients may have founded their businesses:

  • to ‘build’ their family
  • to make their family better
  • often to bring their families closer together.

Imagine the profound disappointment of these founders or children when they discover that their families are fractured (seemingly) because of the family business.

My advice to families facing this dilemma is to decide very early if their family business is a ‘family-first’ or ‘business-first’ family business. This may sound contrived and harsh or at the least unnecessary but I have experienced countless times when this choice becomes the choice point that permanently damages family relationships sometimes for generations to come.

So encourage your clients to ask themselves some hard questions early on …. ‘If I have to choose between a good relationship with my children and having a profitable business, which would I choose?’ The answer is less important than the thought behind it. Family advisors should not underestimate the stakes for family business principals – stakes don’t get much higher than this.

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