Here are some telltale signs that your family business may benefit from the services of a business psychologist:
- Family members (in or out of the company) are constantly fighting and bickering.
- Communication between family members is minimal or non-existent.
- There's a crisis, such as a blow-up among family members that prompts one member to walk out on the business.
- Family members lack the skills or experience needed to run the business.
- One or more family members is having personal difficulties, such as substance abuse or marital problems, and the business is affected.
- Growth of the business causes problems. "The more money involved in the situation, oftentimes the worse the difficulties," says James Finn, a business psychologist in Decatur, Ill. Everyone gets along fine when the business is small and not much money is involved, but watch out when the money gets big and lots of folks want to put their fingers in the pot.
- When the business is not doing as well as it could because of conflict or non-performing family members.
- There is no succession plan: The younger generation is chafing to take over and the older generation won't give up the reins, even though they are getting on in years.
- When an issue comes up and family members won't cooperate. "I get called in when there is a legal transaction pending, like an estate plan or buy/sell agreement, and family members are reluctant to sign it because of some hidden emotional objections," says Ed Cox, a partner in Doud Hausner Vistar, consultants in Glendale, Calif.
- When the family wants to take a proactive approach and develop a family or business plan or strategy.
- When hiring and promotions are not being carried out effectively.
Alan S. Horowitz, author of The Unofficial Guide to Hiring and Firing, is a business, technology and marketing writer who lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Copyright © 2000. Family Business magazine