Who’s Really Pulling the Strings? Part I

In an autocratic family business, who holds the power? Your first answer may be the father, who built the company from scratch, or the son, set to inherit- but oftentimes, the men of the family are reduced to puppets; with the women behind the scenes, controlling the marionette strings.

Imagine: your independent business is flourishing, you and your spouse are happy. You’d like to retire, but not to worry, because all your hard work won’t be wasted- your son and daughter seem ready to take over. With a good succession plan, life will be good.

But what happens when your son falls in love with a woman of a different nationality, who has no interest in the business, who you suspect of being a gold digger? What happens when relationships between you and your new daughter-in-law become toxic? What happens when even your other child distances herself from you? If you don’t bridge these ever-widening chasms between family members, what will become of your legacy, hanging in the balance?

I was facilitator, mediator and strategist to a family business in jeopardy. Elemental themes of betrayal, favouritism, and destructive relationships were all a play.

Working with the family for 5 years. I was concerned about the tiny toxic interactions that grew over the years – that, when influenced by precisely the wrong person,  spelt  disaster for the family and its succession plans. But thankfully and more importantly,  the owner had the wisdom and presence of mind to recognise and resolve these interactions, so that his family business might thrive.