Business is Business: Reality Checks for Family-owned Companies, by Kathy Kolbe and Amy Bruske ISBN 9781626343733
Five out of five stars
When I graduated from high school I started working for my maternal uncle’s construction company. He was the sole owner and when I started three of his brothers also worked there, along with two of my uncle’s brothers-in-law. In the next few years three other maternal uncles also worked there as well as my younger brother. A bit later, there were two son-in-laws added to the mix. The roles were that of common laborer up to the foreman on the job sites.
With this background, it was easy to recognize most of the issues regarding Family Owned Businesses (FOBs) described in this book. People working on the job grew up together and were in positions of having to give and take instructions. There were times when it created difficulties that would not have been present if we had no personal relationships.
Many of the operational issues covered in this book are identical to what occurs in other organizations that don’t have family members working together, people that seemed to be good fits to a position turn out not to be, for many different reasons. The next step is of course what to do about it, for it is difficult to let a family member go. Yet, like so many aspects of running a business, you cannot be successful if you are unwilling to make the hard, often unpleasant decisions.
Two other issues that are covered in detail are the presence of non-family members in the company and the fact that many of the businesses were started by one or more of the family members. The appearance of favoritism in performance or pay for family members can be a cancer on an organization. Ways in which this can be prevented are examined.
In many cases, the entrepreneur(s) that started the company have a completely different mindset regarding how they feel about it. They began doing whatever needed to be done with few to no silos of work and generally worked significant hours to get the company going. Later additions, even family members, generally do not have this mindset when working for the company. That problem is also addressed.
Many start-up companies are owned and operated by family members and if not, often have other family members as investors. This is a powerful economic engine in every country, creating new jobs and opportunities that helps create dynamic growth. There are problems in these organizations that those without family members do not experience and this book helps you recognize and deal with those issues. Sometimes the solution is as simple as calling each other by your first names while working and other times it is the tough choice of letting a close family member go.
One of the authors (Kolbe) provides a set of professional services as well as a set of indexes that can be used to measure various personal and organizational parameters. Those services are mentioned several times in the book. The mentions never rise to the level of sounding like a commercial.