Conflict Management for Family Business Stakeholders

Need More Info?

How can we help?

The Continuity ‘Conflict Management’ Methodology

The ability to manage conflict effectively is the most critical success factor for family business, since the potential for conflict is woven into the very fabric of a family-owned and operated entity. Developing skillful conflict management to navigate differences helps family businesses succeed and preserve lasting relationships.

At times, family business conflict can seem extreme and intractable. This conflict may be active, compromising the business and threatening family relationships and their shared wealth; or it may be passive, with stakeholders stuck and unable to make timely decisions from fear of conflict. Family members often react by creating siloed organizations and avoiding the important conversations necessary for good planning. When families go to war over business, wealth or power, or when family issues overwhelm sound economic decision-making, everyone loses.

Striking at the Heart of Personal Identity

When family members are interconnected economically, professionally and emotionally, conflicts can become much more intense and far-reaching. Agreeing to disagree and go separate ways is simply not an option for most stakeholders. Expectations and personal commitment run high in family enterprise. When one’s position in the enterprise system is threatened, it feels deeply personal – often striking at the core of one’s identity. It is hard to move forward when healthy relationships between individuals are critical to business success and wealth, yet interests and values diverge. These situations are too complex; the relationships too important. Traditional dispute resolution techniques, such as litigation and mediation, become ineffective.

A Unique, Developmental Approach

Going beyond traditional dispute resolution techniques, Continuity’s conflict management methodology* addresses the underlying structural and personal issues that are the basis of the family enterprise system. We help ensure that the interests of all stakeholders are considered and that the family is presented with realistic options. These may include actionable changes to the business organization to improve transparency, accountability, or role definition. More importantly, our team collaborates with family stakeholders to open up the realm of new possibilities to get them unstuck and grow out of conflict.

Continuity Family Business Consulting Partner Blair Trippe discusses their unique developmental approach to managing the conflict that is inherent in family enterprise.

Continuity’s family business conflict management process is highly effective for:

  • Developing leadership and ownership succession plans
  • Navigating the evolving responsibilities of shared business ownership and management
  • Dealing with wealth disparity between family branches
  • Developing family employment and compensation policies
  • Mobilizing teams to become unstuck
  • Improving communication and dispute resolution skills among stakeholders
  • Aligning and accommodating diverse stakeholder values
  • Crafting a shared vision and united strategies
  • Forging family unity and engagement

When Conflict is Triggered by a Crisis

Despite all the best planning and having solid processes in place, every enterprise finds it challenging to anticipate market fluctuations or industry shifts that may expose it to risk. Some change can be predictable, while other types of change can be imposed when you least expect it. A family may experience the untimely disability or death of a family or business leader. Or there may be specific disputes that rise to a level of threatened litigation or family cutoffs. Whatever the situation, the business and the family can be thrown into a crisis that requires immediate and focused attention as well as the deployment of resources. There are also unique structural and emotional obstacles to change with family enterprises which come, in part, from the different motivations, roles, personalities and responsibilities of family members. Each stakeholder may perceive their risk exposure differently.

Balancing Planning with Sensitivity to Human Dynamics

A good crisis management response requires not only thorough scenario planning and development of the supporting business structures, but attention to the unique human dynamics of the family, which often become more pronounced in crisis situations. Continuity is uniquely equipped to guide family members through the full range of crisis situations by helping them make smart – yet difficult – decisions in a timely manner, under significant stress. The Continuity approach to family business crisis management places a priority on avoiding upheaval for family members and business stakeholders. We support the maintaining of business stability and the ongoing pursuit of opportunity. Our team of specialized professionals includes trained, certified, and experienced mediators to address individual disputes and facilitate meetings among stakeholders as an integral part of our broader conflict management. We have worked successfully with family members and their trusted legal advisors at every stage of extreme conflict – including families in crisis and litigation. In cases where litigation is active or threatened, having mediators available with particular expertise in family business issues – and experience in other types of alternative dispute resolution such as collaborative law, arbitration and consensus building – can provide valuable options for families in need. Our crisis management expertise includes:

  • A comprehensive, fast-tracked assessment
  • Thorough analysis of the correlating issues
  • Vetting of the most viable remedies, with a clear articulation of the ramifications
  • Recruitment and facilitation of an expert team – including appropriate internal and external specialists as well as interim professionals (as may be required)
  • Scenario-contingency planning

*Learn more about Continuity’s groundbreaking methodology known as “The Conflict Equation”  found in their book Deconstructing Conflict: Understanding Family Business, Shared Wealth and Power.