Family Business Conflict
Conflict is a violent clash between two or more individuals, businesses, systems, countries, cultures, components, chemicals, or other things.
Family Business Conflict is a self-predicting certainty: Family + Business makes no sense – because they each represent incompatible systems where, at best, conflicts are managed, but never eliminated. At worst, conflicts rip the family and/or the business to shreds, causing multiple casualties.
Mediation is a popular and flexible process for resolving most types of dispute and conflict. It relies on skilfully managed negotiations to help produce voluntary agreements between parties.
Family Business Mediator
A Family Business Mediator works with family members, sometimes with non-family employees and other relevant stakeholders as well, to build a level of understanding and consensus that can produce a voluntary agreement between the parties.
BUT ……. where it’s normal and reasonable to expect parties to a conventional mediation to abide by the terms of their agreement, with business families it’s regrettably common to go through all the hoops required to stitch up an agreement, only to find some family members ignoring said agreement, with apparent impunity.
If the individual(s) concerned is a protected species within the family (usually under Mum’s or Dad’s wing), or the family simply lacks the will and/or the discipline to enforce the terms of their agreement, the entire rationale for using mediation is frustrated. Whatever residual hope and trust remained in the family is usually destroyed by this outcome.
Also, Mediation is a voluntary process – any participant can bail out of the process at any time, without fear of repercussion. And if a family member is not there to agree to something, they’re not bound by any concluded agreement. As nobody can stop anybody from taking themselves outside the mediation process, many family mediations are blocked, or otherwise held to ransom, by individuals who can’t, or won’t, play nicely.
Working in dispute resolution for over 30 years confirms that conventional Mediation (which I’ll happily use for many other types of dispute), is really not suitable for resolving family business disputes and conflicts – although it sounds ideal, in principle.
Family Business Conflict Resolution
For a Family Business Dispute Resolver to be genuinely effective, they must offer a process that can actually guarantee the resolution of disputes – practically, and with finality. To do this reliably, once it’s been started the process must be:
- Able to reach conclusion, whether or not individuals choose to bail or block when things aren’t going their way and,
- Capable of enforcement, by and through the family. Real consequences must be a reality.
SODR for Families (Solution-Oriented Dispute Resolution)
20 years ago there were few, if any Family Business Dispute Resolution experts. Even today, most dispute resolvers prefer to concentrate on either commercial, or family/personal disputes – very few are game to cover both.
Back in the day we used normal mediation processes to resolve Family Business Disputes and Conflicts, but quickly learnt that standard processes were sub-optimal, because they couldn’t produce lasting results, even when issues were resolved with apparent finality.
So this Family Business Mediator became a Family Business Solutionist – investing extra time to identify underlying problems in the family, before dealing with the presenting issue (which often evaporated during the course of the process). This became the SODR process.