I attended a family business forum last week where the CEO of a large midwest family business told a story about how the family’s Advisory Board had basically “saved the family from itself.” The family was stuck in a turf war over some key issues until the Board Chair said, “You need to get this resolved within 60 days!”
The family took that directive and settled their differences and got back on a good track. The CEO said the outside perspective and direction was just what the family needed to get unstuck.
It made me think: Why don’t more families readily realize they could benefit from outside help from trusted advisors?
Family Business Owners Can Be Stubborn
Family business owners are some of the most strong minded, confident people I’ve ever met, much less tried to coach! You can understand how they got that way. Most of them founded or ran a successful business for many years with little or no outside support or influence.
There’s a great saying by leadership guru, Marshall Goldsmith, who titled one of his books, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. For most successful entrepreneurs the strengths (being highly confident and independent) can actually hold them back from reaching higher levels of results.
Family Business Owners Can Be Cynical of Outsiders
Just last week a larger than life dad told me he viewed most family business consultants, coaches and therapists “propellerheads”! He said he thought they were all full of “theories” that weren’t that useful in day-to-day business.
He has come to realize that in my case I had lots of very practical, hands-on experience that has been very useful to he and his daughters. Rather than falling into the default cynical mode, most owners could benefit from actually judging people with an open mind.
Family Business Owners Can Be Overly Prideful
One of the other reasons I think family business owners resist advice from others is that they can be overly prideful. It’s great to be proud of what you and your family have accomplished but don’t let your pride leave you blind to ideas from others.
There’s no shame in being proud AND still being open to others. For these owners it’s like if someone has a better idea they think it will diminish or erase their own knowledge or experience. That shouldn’t be the case. Great leaders surround themselves with people who have their own great strengths and personal confidence.
Family Business Owners Should Be Open to Being Held Accountable
In the case of the family I met last week, the fact that they were open to being held accountable might have saved their family relationships and ultimately their family business. They had to first be willing to have outside advisors and then they had to be willing to be held accountable.
In the end, the CEO still had the “free will” to make his own decision but somehow intuitively knew it was time to listen to others and take action. Being held accountable can be a good thing.
Family Business Owners Should Be Selfless
At the end of the day even as I sit here and write this blog that’s all about, pride, ego and being strong minded, I guess the bottom line is that the family business owners should be selfless. They should put as much of their own pride and sense of self aside and be open to what’s best for the business.
Famous business expert Jim Collins called it, “Level 5 Leadership” and said it was the “triumph of humility and fierce resolve.” That sounds like a recipe for long-term family business success!
About Coach Pete: Pete Walsh is a Master Certified Coach in Phoenix, Arizona. His client families appreciate his ability to mix tough love, humor, compassion and accountability to help them stay on the winning track. Pete worked for 16 years in his family’s 89-year-old business. Check out his free tools the Family Business Landmine Detection Map or Family Business Survival Kit