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Family Business Matters       02/15 11:12

   Mind Over Matter

   The key to a successful family business is to recognize when your own 
mind-set is either helping or preventing the growth of the family and business.

By Lance Woodbury
DTN Farm Business Adviser

   Years ago, I began to see similarities in how individual members of 
different family businesses were wired. For example, some family business 
members constantly thought about growth, which often helped capture new 
opportunities but sometimes created financial challenges. Other family members 
would never expand the business and were totally risk-averse. 

   Some family members saw themselves being owed by their parents, while others 
made absolutely no claims on a future inheritance. Some parents avoided 
discussion of difficult topics at all costs, while other family members 
approached communication as a political chess match.


   Below are a few of the common family business mind-sets I see as I counsel 
with families. Which mind-set do you hold? Which mind-sets do you see in others?

   The Victim: The victim in the family business is the member who, despite 
claiming every effort to "do the right thing," constantly complains their 
family members, employees or even vendors are out to get him or her. They 
seldom acknowledge the negative impact they have on others through their 
communication or workplace behavior, instead pointing to other's actions as the 
root of all problems.

   The Opportunist: The opportunist in the family business (aka the 
"wheeler-dealer") is the person always moving to the next project or 
opportunity, sometimes without a demonstrated track record of success on 
current or past projects. Some of the projects may be very valuable to the 
business, while others are a waste of time and effort. But, by the time the 
verdict is in, they are usually on to the next deal.

   The Entitled: Entitled family members often think they have a right to 
something of value in the organization, which could be ownership of an asset, 
an amount of compensation or a position or level of responsibility in the 
business. When a family member working in the business expresses such 
entitlement to non-family staff, the culture of the business suffers due to an 
absence of perceived fairness. They may also act on their sense of entitlement, 
which can put the business at risk.

   The Denier: The denier is the family member who refuses to admit a problem 
most others see or who refuses to address the challenge even when they 
acknowledge it exists. I most often see this "ostrich effect" in parents who 
refuse to accept the difficulty their family has in working together or in 
recognizing the likelihood of future conflict.

   The Politician: In family businesses with many members, the politician is 
constantly looking to satisfy his agenda by using individual communication and 
alliance-building. Working behind the scenes to move the family in a particular 
direction sometimes has positive effects for the business, but these tactics 
can create distrust and often "keep the pot stirred."

   The Mediator: The mediator in many family businesses is often Mom, though it 
sometimes can be the middle child or even a spouse, or in-law. They strive to 
bridge the differences between family members. When there are family members 
naturally at odds, the mediator helps reduce the tension. But, the constant act 
of being in the middle also wears out the mediator, causing occasional stress, 
depression or retreat.


   Not every member wears the same hat all the time, and most of the mind-sets 
have both positive and negative dimensions. The key to a successful family 
business is to recognize when your own mind-set is either helping or preventing 
the growth of the family and business.


   Editor's Note: Write Lance Woodbury at Family Business Matters, 2204 
Lakeshore Dr., Suite 415, Birmingham, AL 35209, or email lance@agprogress.com. 


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