Why Should You Talk To Me?
Family enterprises are complex, dynamic systems. They are too complex to predict, and can all too easily become chaotic. Waiting for problems to arise and then trying to solve them rarely works.
That is probably why only 30% of family businesses survive into the second generation, and only 10% or so into the third. The statistics are similar for succession to non-business related wealth - 70% of wealth transition plans are said to fail - and both statistics seem consistent across jurisdictions, tax regimes and the economic cycle.
Family dynamics need constant active management. All the available research suggests that the solution is to "communicate, communicate, communicate", but it turns out that is much easier said than done.
What Do I Do?
What fascinates me most is that even educated, articulate and well-intentioned people so often fail to communicate effectively about their common concerns.
Drawing on 40 years' experience of working with families as adviser, litigator and trustee, on my craft as a mediator, and on the principles of
interpersonal neurobiology I help families to have the conversations they need to have but have never quite got around to (too difficult!), or have tried their best to have but without success (nobody listened!!). Those conversations are often about succession and governance.
The ability to work out what is stopping people from having those conversations, and to find ways of overcoming those obstacles, and dealing with high emotion, are core to the mediator's craft. The tool that is particular to the mediator is the power of skilled neutral, sometimes called "omnipartial", intervention. More >
How Do I Work?
I begin by listening to what everyone has to say, one-on-one, in private,and in total confidence, because when people feel heard, they tend to be open and honest about what concerns them most.
When everyone has had the chance to tell their own story in their own words and in their own time, I have a unique, and extremely privileged, overview of the family's wants and needs and the challenges they face in communicating them to each other. Those challenges are highly individual, and I will work to find ways of bringing everyone together that will allow them to have the conversations they need to have, and will facilitate that dialogue.
Sometimes I am asked to intervene only when a crisis has arisen, although long-term solutions generally lie not in short-term problem-solving but in finding better ways of managing the family dynamic on an ongoing basis. Increasingly, I am working with families who have recognised that, and who want to take action before things go awry.
Many clients comment that they find the process therapeutic, but it is not therapy. It is, above all, outcome focussed, the aim being to find practical ways for the family to communicate more effectively, make better decisions, and deal with their differences more constructively. More >
Getting Your Brain in Gear: Communication in the Family Business
Tharawat Magazine, Volume 17, January - March 2013
Recommended reading for March:
The Storytelling Animal: How Stories make Us Human
by Jonathan Gottschall