I found out early in my family business career that conflict was inherent in the family business experience. I was a young salesman working at Walsh Bros when Uncle Walsh called me into his office and informed me he was splitting my sales territory!
I was crushed! I couldn’t imagine why he was making a decision that would quickly and negatively impact my personal earnings. How could he possibly do this to me, I thought.
It was one of the first of many hard realities I encountered while working in the family business.
He explained that the product we were selling was enjoying good success in the marketplace and therefore he thought it was important to add another salesperson so the company could sell more products. I remember his exact words “we need to make hay while the sun shines“.
The translation in my young mind was “were going to screw the young nephew because we can get away with it”
As I looked back a few years later, I could see the logic in his decision and I could also see the positive impact it had on me. The logic for his decision was a sound business idea. The product we were selling was memory typewriters (I realize I just dated myself) and they were selling like hotcakes. He was right in wanting to add another salesperson to accelerate sales.
The other positive benefit that came out of it was how it angered me and pushed me to want to succeed even more. I had to work harder and fight to show that I was a successful salesman even with a smaller territory.
The same pattern continued for the rest of my family business career. Uncle Walsh had been trained by Grandpa Walsh and they were both logical and disciplined businessmen who weren’t afraid to make hard business decisions for the good of the business.
I didn’t always agree with the decisions and many times they had a negative impact on me but in the long run we had an 85-year-old successful business due to solid decision-making based upon solid business fundamentals.
Conflict is inherent in business. Don’t allow your family to get confused and hurt about sound business decisions. A successful family business has its roots in disciplined, well thought out business decision-making not emotion based decisions. It’s a tough pill to swallow but one that will keep the family business healthy for many years to come.