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Balancing business-related issues and emotional dynamics within the family business.

Family businesses are a blend of personal ties and professional pursuits, offering both strong values, a close-knit culture and a long term perspective and the challenges of harmonising diverse perspectives and unique dynamics. As a result they are not immune to conflicts that can arise due to the intricate interplay of familial dynamics and business operations. Addressing and resolving these conflicts is paramount to ensure the success and sustainability of the family business.

The potential challenges of a family business that can contribute to conflicts are:

- Additional factors driving prioritisation and decision making, such as favouritism/nepotism, emotional ties and personal feelings

- Conflicts of interest - Striking a balance between family members’ personal interests and the business’ best interests

- Varying levels of professionalism, expertise and also professional and personal growth

- Communication such as the impact of family roles on communication and the presence of informal channels

- Complex financial structure and allocation of capital and profits

- Work – life boundaries and balance

- Succession

One could argue that the same challenges exist in any organisation but they are more on the surface and dominant in a family business and the solutions are often less straight forward.

Prevention of conflict and navigating conflicts arising from the above challenges require:

- A strong governance structure such as the establishment of a family council or board of advisors to provide oversight and strategic guidance and the creation of policies for family employment, promotions and compensation and well defined roles and responsibilities;

- Open and honest communication among family members in the business - regular family meetings or forums to discuss business matters and where family members feel comfortable to express concerns and opinions and there is an agreement to address conflicts as they arise rather than allowing them to fester;

- Professional development to prepare family members for future positions in the business and emphasise the value of diverse perspectives and outside knowledge by complementing family members in the business with external expertise;

- An agreed conflict resolution process that outlines steps for addressing conflicts.

Conflict resolution can involve a neutral 3rd party, such as a mediator, to facilitate discussions and find solutions. Mediators do not have a personal stake in the conflict and that neutrality helps create an environment where all involved can express their concerns openly without fearing bias. All parties can speak and feel being heard, family relationships can be preserved, there is full confidentiality and family members feel they are part of the process of generating solutions rather than that these are imposed upon them.

Proactively addressing conflicts and fostering a culture of open communication, respect and collaboration can work towards maintaining strong family relations and a thriving business.


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