Getting the cousins together: overcoming threats to a 3rd generation business
It happens without anybody realizing. It may be happening right now. And it can threaten
the very future of your family owned company.
You all live in separate households, possibly scattered about in different regions. The places you reside and the people you marry have evolved your political views, your religious beliefs, even the some of the values you hold.
It happened so naturally as to go almost unnoticed: the Founder passed the enterprise on to his or her children, and this very manageable sibling partnership eventually handed the reins over to the third generation, popularly known as the Cousin Consortium.
This stage of the family business can change everything
Whereas the company was once run by a smaller, tighter knit unit, now several different cousins are responsible for managing and operating the business. These individuals may possess varying degrees of skill, motivation, work ethic, or commitment to the company.
This new dynamic can breed animosity (some may want to ‘cash out’ requiring partial liquidation) or disfunction (difficulty in managing disputes). And, just as perilous, with so many differing personalities and viewpoints entering the mix, the ‘special sauce’ that had always made the family brand so meaningful may become diluted.
An independent board of directors or advisers can help the company manage transition issues, develop a viable growth strategy and remove family emotions from business decisions.
But emotions regarding the family company’s brand itself … well … those may be need to be reignited.
Something to rally around
For those cousins committed to carrying on with the company, they need to rediscover what it is that makes their brand so special to their customers. So meaningful to their lives.
The process of clarifying and clearly articulating the company’s brand position will reveal just what sets them apart. Just what excites the customer, what satisfies their core functional and emotional needs. Why the family owned business matters.
This validation will have a profound effect. Once the cousins are reminded of the meaningful purpose they collectively serve in the customer’s life, that purpose will act to spur on their efforts, drive their decisions, excite their employees, and foster that same pinnacle of pride that constantly fired in the belly of the Founder.