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Two Tools To Resolve Conflict in Your Family Business

By Kyle Danner

One of the biggest drivers of conflict in the family business is a lack of clarity. That’s especially true for a family in the midst of transition—whether that transition is related to growth or to the future of the business.
Without a clear path forward, family members find themselves arguing over questions like:

  • Who’s in charge? Who’s responsible for what?
  • What’s expected of me? Am I working on the right things?
  • Where are we going?
  • How are we going to get there?
  • When will we know we’ve arrived?

All this uncertainty creates a tense atmosphere. Disputes in the family business makes everyone nervous, which leaves everyone feeling unsure of the future. It’s a perfect recipe for conflict: for arguments on the shop floor, in the boardroom, or around the kitchen table.

As the uncertainty increases, so does the frequency and intensity of the fighting. Over time, the family and the business start to fall apart and everyone pays the price.

So how can you prevent all of this from happening?

It’s simple. Structure.

Structure is the answer to this uncertainty. To this lack of clarity. If your business has a clear structure in place, everyone knows their roles. They feel more comfortable at work, understand exactly where the family business is headed, and have a clear picture of their place in the journey to get there. 

Structure is a simple solution, but for many smaller businesses, it’s difficult to put into place. Chances are since the business first opened its doors, everyone has done things their own way. You may have clear goals in place for your team, but how they reach those goals is entirely up to them. 

So getting them to transition to following a clear, well-defined process can be challenging for both of you. Your team might feel frustrated and push back. You might feel like they aren’t doing it correctly and try to micromanage their work. These are normal problems companies face when establishing structure in a business. Fortunately, with the right system, you can make the process a lot smoother for everyone involved.


How to Build Structure in the Family Business with EOS

EOS®, the Entrepreneurial Operating System, gives the family business the structure it needs to face the challenges related to running, growing and transitioning the business. The Accountability Chart and the Vision/Traction Organizer are two foundational tools that go a long way in building that structure. 

Let’s take them one at a time.

get-a-grip-on-your-business-inbound-2014-19-638The Accountability Chart is an organizational chart on steroids. It’s designed to create the right structure for the family business. And it’s not about titles. It’s about functions. The behavior. The roles. The responsibilities for each seat in the business. 

So often in family business, or any business for that matter, there’s a lack of clarity and an overabundance of confusion on who’s supposed to be doing what. Who should team members report to? What’s clearly expected of them?

When that clarity isn’t there, family members argue over who’s in charge. They find themselves in positions they’re not suited for. Or, you might end up with duplication of effort. Because no one knows who is in charge of what task, they might do the task multiple times. Taking time to build out the Accountability Chart is the first step in clearing up that confusion.

The Vision Traction Organizer™, or V/TO for short, gets everyone on the same page. By answering the 8 questions, not only do you know where you’re going for the long term, what the vision for the business is, but you also know what your priorities are for the next 90 days to get there. It brings the vision down to the ground so the leadership of the family business is clear on what they need to be focused on in the short term. 

Now, that’s not to say there won’t be problems when building out the Accountability Chart or completing the V/TO. But it’s a process that promotes healthy conflict and creates the clarity that family businesses desperately need. It’s the kind of conflict, that when resolved, gets everyone on the same page and moving in the same direction.

The great thing about EOS is that these tools are free for the taking. They can be downloaded here. It’s a good idea to meet with your leadership team and work through the pieces together. Not only will this help everyone feel involved in the process, and therefore more likely to accept it, but it will also reveal areas where everyone isn’t on the same page.

Another great resource is the book Traction: Get A Grip On Your Business by Gino Wickman. This book teaches you how to use your Accountability Chart and V/TO to ensure the right people are in the right seat. You can download a free copy of the first chapter from Traction here.


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