Intergenerational Communication in Family Business

  • May 04, 2018
  • By Sadashiva Consulting Services

Lack of fluent communication among family members enhances the conflicts they face. Informal meetings (like the ones that are created around a dinner table) offer the proper mood many families need to go deeper in the conversation about their shared values, mission and vision. Of course, formal meetings are also necessary—when information is not formally delivered, misinterpretations are common. A good combination of both kinds of meetings generates the right moments for coherent conversations about the shared heritage and the future a family wants to build. Not having this combination often results in heated discussions between parents and children or among siblings, who have different perspectives on the same reality.

One of the main objectives when thinking about implementing a governance system in a family business is to help create the right conditions for effective communication between the leaders of today and tomorrow. Initial (and in many cases) informal conversations may determine if the family truly wants to continue with its heritage in the future. The initial informal approach can lay the groundwork for strategies, guidelines and projects to be undertaken by the family to achieve the goals that can be discussed later in more formal meetings. If the family or some of its members wish to separate, they should create mechanisms to negotiate favorable terms for all parties. But if the family wants to continue on together, they must first of all build spaces, conditions and rules for the sake of balance and harmony to create shared dreams of future.

Family communication is the foundation for successful succession in family business. The likelihood of a smooth and effective transition will be significantly enhanced if the active family members have been holding family business meetings and family council meetings to address the succession issues. Managing family member expectations, enabling them to make informed decisions about their future in the business and providing sufficient comfort to implement the succession plan is the role of these family meetings. If your family has not held family business meetings or family council meetings, it is strongly recommended that you start your succession process by setting them up.

Communication is often considered to be the single most important aspect of a successful transition. You must ensure that you are not making decisions based on assumptions, but rather on factual information expressed by those who are impacted by the succession process. Do you have a dedicated forum (i.e., family business meetings for the active family members and family council meetings for the broader family) that deals with succession issues and the succession process? Do you feel comfortable in leading these kinds of meetings? Is there an active senior family member who is well suited to lead these meetings? Have you considered the benefits of using an outside facilitator (i.e., family business practitioner) to get the family meetings started? The Author is N.Krishnan – Family Business Advisor @ Sadashivaconsulting Services.

You Might Also Like